Altria, Juul to Face Suit Over $13…


Altria Group Inc. and Juul Labs Inc. will probably need to face a proposed antitrust class motion searching for to unwind a $12.8 billion deal that gave the legacy tobacco firm a 35% stake within the vaping big, a federal choose in San Francisco stated in a “tentative” ruling.

Decide William H. Orrick indicated Wednesday that he’s inclined to let a lot of the lawsuit transfer ahead within the U.S. District Court docket for the Northern District of California, the place it was consolidated after dozens of antitrust plaintiffs sued over deal clauses calling for Altria’s exit from the vaping market.

“Plaintiffs plausibly allege facts in support of an illegal agreement to restrain trade and conspiracy to do the same,” the choose wrote in a two-page order he issued after a listening to held over Zoom.

Orrick stated he’ll slim the allegations in opposition to two particular person Juul board members and compel arbitration of claims introduced by one group of plaintiffs, “direct purchasers.”

The direct purchasers can refile their case with lead plaintiffs who opened Juul accounts earlier than the corporate started requiring prospects to comply with arbitration in mid-2018, the choose stated.

He additionally signaled he’ll give a inexperienced gentle to the a part of the case searching for to roll again the transaction beneath Part 7 of the Clayton Act. The tentative ruling comes two months after a federal appeals court docket for the primary time agreed to unwind a merger in response to a problem by a rival somewhat than a regulator.

The Federal Commerce Fee has additionally sued over the Altria-Juul transaction.

Joseph Saveri Regulation Agency Inc. is interim lead counsel for the direct purchasers.

Zwerling, Schachter & Zwerling LLP is interim lead counsel for the oblique purchasers, that are additionally represented by Kaplan Fox & Kilsheimer LLP, Cera LLP, Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLP, Meyers Regulation Group PC, Rupp Baase Pfalzgraf Cunningham LLC, Reinhardt Wendorf & Blanchfield, and Yadegar, Minoofar & Soleymani LLP.

Altria is represented by Wilkinson Stekloff LLP. Juul is represented by Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP. Its board members are represented by Kellogg Hansen Todd Figel & Frederick PLLC.

The case is In re Juul Labs Inc. Antitrust Litig., N.D. Cal., No. 20-cv-2345, 4/21/21.

(New paragraphs eight by eleven added to offer counsel and case cite info.)

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