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United States v. Philip Morris USA

May 21, 2004

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PHILIP MORRIS USA, INC., F/K/A PHILIP MORRIS, INC. ET AL. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gladys Kessler, United States District Court Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is now before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment Dismissing the Government's Disgorgement Claim ("Motion"). Upon consideration of the Motion, the Government's Opposition, the Reply, the Surreply*fn1 and the entire record herein, and for the reasons stated below, the Motion is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, the United States of America (the"Government") has brought this suit against the Defendants*fn2 pursuant to Sections 1962(c) and (d) of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO"), 18 U.S.C. § 1961, et seq..*fn3 Defendants are manufacturers of cigarettes and other tobacco-related entities. The Government seeks injunctive relief and disgorgement of $280 billion dollars*fn4 of ill-gotten gains for what it alleges to be Defendants' unlawful conspiracy to deceive the American public. The Government's Amended Complaint describes a four-decade long conspiracy, dating from at least 1953, to intentionally and willfully deceive and mislead the American public about, among other things, the harmful nature of tobacco products, the addictive nature of nicotine, and the possibility of manufacturing safer and less addictive tobacco products. Amended Complaint ("Am. Compl.") at ¶ 3.

II. ANALYSIS

Defendants seek partial summary judgment dismissing the Government's disgorgement claim on the ground that it fails to meet the standard set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 1964(a), the provision which provides statutory remedies for RICO violations. Defendants argue that any disgorgement which might be ordered upon a finding of liability must be limited by both the text of Section 1964(a) itself and the holding in United States v. Carson, 52 F.3d 1173 (2d Cir. 1995), interpreting that section.

To justify the $280 billion disgorgement award it seeks, the Government has developed an economic model approximating the ill gotten gains of Defendants. See United States' Proposed Concl. Law, § IV.A.3. The model purports to calculate all of Defendants' proceeds from cigarettes smoked between 1971 and 2000 by persons who have been included within the Government-defined"youth addicted population." See Motion, at 3 (terms in quotes are defined within the Government's economic model). Defendants claim that the Government's economic model fails to distinguish between ill-gotten gains, which can be disgorged under Section 1964(a), and legally-gotten gains, which cannot. In addition, Defendants argue that the Government's economic model must be rejected because it does not limit disgorgement to those ill-gotten gains that"are being used to fund or promote the illegal conduct, or constitute capital available for that purpose," a standard that Defendants argue is required by Section 1964(a). Motion, at 21-22 (citing Carson, 52 F.3d at 1182). The Government responds that its economic model need only reasonably approximate the ill-gotten gains of Defendants. Finally, the Government argues that the Carson limitation on disgorgement on which Defendants rely should be rejected because it is overly-restrictive and contrary to the text and purposes of RICO.

A. Summary Judgment Standard

Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Material facts are those that "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In considering a summary judgment motion, "the evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Id. at 255. See Washington Post Co. v. United States Dep't of Health and Human Serv., 865 F.2d 320, 325 (D.C. Cir. 1989).

Additionally,"if the evidence presented on a dispositive issue is subject to conflicting interpretations, or reasonable persons might differ as to its significance, summary judgment is improper." Greenberg v. FDA, 803 F.2d 1213, 1216 (D.C. Cir. 1986). At the summary judgment stage,"the court is not to make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence." Dunway v. Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters, 310 F.3d 758, 761 (D.C. Cir. 2002).

B. Any Order of Disgorgement Must Rest upon a Showing of a Reasonable Likelihood of Future RICO Violations

Both the plain language of Section 1964(a) as well as the very nature of equitable remedies permitted under it require a showing of a reasonable likelihood of future RICO violations before a court may order any equitable remedy, including disgorgement.*fn5

The text of Section 1964(a) explicitly limits the Court's jurisdiction to remedies that"prevent and restrain" future RICO violations. *fn6 Moreover, the three examples of permissible remedies set forth in Section 1964(a) –- divestiture, restrictions on future activities, and dissolution/reorganization -- are all forward looking and focus on the goal of preventing future RICO violations. See Richard v. Hoechst Celanese Chem. Group, Inc., 355 F.3d 345, 354 (5th Cir. 2003). Accordingly, the plain language of Section 1964(a) requires a showing of a reasonable likelihood of future RICO violations before a court may order disgorgement. See Carson, 52 F.3d at 1182. ("the jurisdictional powers of 1964(a) serve the goal of foreclosing future violations and do not afford broader redress"); United States v. Sasso, 215 F.3d 283, 290-91 (2d Cir. 2000) (awarding relief pursuant to Section 1964(a) turns on"whether the disgorgements [sic] ordered here are designed to prevent and restrain future conduct rather than to punish past conduct") (emphasis in original); Richard, 355 F.3d at 354 (equitable remedies under Section 1964(a)"are available only to prevent ongoing and future conduct").

In addition, the very nature of the equitable remedies permitted under Section 1964(a) requires a showing of reasonable likelihood of future RICO violations. See Carson, 52 F.3d at 1181-82; United States v. Cappetto, 502 F.3d 1351, 1358 (7th Cir. 1974) ("Pursuant to Section 1964... whether equitable relief is appropriate depends, as it does in other cases in equity, on whether a preponderance of the evidence shows a likelihood that the defendants will commit wrongful acts in the future.") (interpreting equitable remedies under the provision which would later become Section 1964(a)); Local 30, 871 F.2d at 408 (same).

Accordingly, the Court concludes that the plain language of Section 1964(a), particularly the"prevent and restrain" provision, and the very nature of those equitable remedies permitted under it, require a showing of a reasonable likelihood of future RICO violations prior to ...


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