NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Bragar Eagel & Squire, P.C. announces that a class action lawsuit has been filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York on behalf of all investors that purchased Altria Group, Inc. (NYSE: MO) securities between December 20, 2018 and September 24, 2019 (the “Class Period”). Investors have until December 2, 2019 to apply to the Court to be appointed as lead plaintiff in the lawsuit.
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Altria, through its subsidiaries, manufactures and sells cigarettes, smokeless tobacco products, and alcoholic beverages in the United States. The Company sells its tobacco products primarily to wholesalers, including distributors; large retail organizations, such as chain stores; and the armed services. On December 20, 2018, Altria issued a press release announcing that it had signed and closed a $12.8 billion investment in JUUL Labs, Inc. (“JUUL”), the purported U.S. leader in electronic vapor products, including e-cigarettes (the “December 2018 Press Release”). According to the December 2018 Press Release, the service agreements related to the transaction would accelerate JUUL’s mission to switch adult smokers to e-vapor products. Altria’s investment represented a 35% economic interest in JUUL, valuing the company at $38 billion, with JUUL purportedly remaining fully independent.
The complaint, filed on October 2, 2019, alleges that throughout the Class Period, defendants made materially false and misleading statements regarding the company's business, operational and compliance policies. Specifically, defendants made false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose that: (i) Altria had conducted insufficient due diligence into JUUL prior to the company’s $12.8 billion investment in JUUL; (ii) Altria consequently failed to inform investors, or account for, material risks associated with JUUL’s products and marketing practices, and the true value of JUUL and its products; (iii) all of the foregoing, as well as mounting public scrutiny, negative publicity, and governmental pressure on e-vapor products and JUUL made it reasonably likely that Altria’s investment in JUUL would have a material negative impact on the company's reputation and operations; and (iv) as a result, the company’s public statements were materially false and misleading at all relevant times. Following Altria’s multi-billion dollar investment in JUUL, e-vapor products and JUUL increasingly became the subject of public and regulatory scrutiny throughout the country. Mounting skepticism, fear, and negative publicity in the media regarding e-cigarettes’ safety led to increased scrutiny by government authorities into vaping products, and municipalities throughout the country began tightening sales practices related to those products. For example, on April 3, 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) announced its investigation into nearly three dozen cases of people suffering from seizures after
Between 2010 and 2019, the FDA said it received thirty-five reports of people, especially children and young adults, experiencing seizures after using e-cigarettes.
On this news, Altria’s stock price fell $2.71 per share, or 4.78%, to close at $53.98 per share on April 3, 2019. Then, on August 29, 2019, the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) was investigating whether JUUL used influencers and other marketing practices to appeal e-cigarettes to minors.
On this news, Altria’s stock price fell $1.60 per share, or 3.49%, to close at $44.25 per share on August 29, 2019.
Additionally, on August 30, 2019, both the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) announced that they were collaborating to investigate e-cigarette related cases of illnesses and “working tirelessly to investigate the distressing incidents of severe respiratory disease associated with use of e-cigarette products.”
On this news, Altria’s stock price fell an additional $0.51 per share, or 1.15%, to close at $43.74 per share on August 30, 2019 a total loss of $2.11 per share, or 4.6%, since closing at $45.85 per share two trading days earlier on August 28, 2019.
On September 11, 2019, news sources reported that the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump was preparing a ban on flavored e-cigarettes as federal agencies probed an outbreak of a lung problem that killed at least six people and reportedly led to the sickness of hundreds of others. President Trump and U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar reportedly both confirmed that a ban is possible after the vaping issues are investigated. On September 12, 2019, during after-market hours, Reuters reported that, “[w]ithin weeks, New Jersey could become the latest state to restrict e-cigarette use, with the governor on Thursday launching a task force to find ways to curb vaping, linked by U.S. health officials to hundreds of respiratory illnesses and a half-dozen deaths.” Additionally, that same day, the CDC reported that as of September 11, 2019, 380 confirmed and probable cases of lung disease associated with vaping had been reported by thirty-six states and the U.S. Virgin Islands, with six deaths confirmed in six states.
On this news, Altria’s stock price fell $2.45 per share, or 5.51%, to close at $42.01 per share on September 13, 2019. On September 23, 2019, during after-market hours, news sources began reporting that federal prosecutors in California were conducting a criminal probe into JUUL.
Finally, on September 25, 2019, Altria issued a press release announcing that Philip Morris had called off discussions of a $200 billion merger with Altria due to scrutiny of the vaping industry and the Company’s 35% stake in JUUL, which had announced the same day that it was the subject of another federal investigation. JUUL also announced its CEO would step down and the firm would stop all advertising in the U.S.
On this news, Altria’s stock price fell an additional $0.17 per share, or 0.42%, to close at $40.56 per share on September 25, 2019 a total loss of $0.32 per share, or 0.78%, since closing at $40.88 per share two trading days earlier on September 23, 2019.
If you purchased Altria Group securities during the Class Period, continue to hold shares purchased before the Class Period, have information, would like to learn more about these claims, or have any questions concerning this announcement or your rights or interests with respect to these matters, please contact Brandon Walker or Melissa Fortunato by email at email@example.com, or telephone at (212) 355-4648, or by filling out this contact form. There is no cost or obligation to you.
Bragar Eagel & Squire, P.C. is a New York-based law firm concentrating in commercial and securities litigation. For additional information concerning the Altria Group lawsuit, please go to https://bespc.com/mo. For additional information about Bragar Eagel & Squire, P.C. please go to www.bespc.com. Attorney advertising. Prior results do not guarantee similar outcomes.