Wilkinson Stekloff served as lead trial counsel for Altria Group, Inc. in an adversarial administrative proceeding before the FTC. The FTC alleged that Altria and JUUL Labs, Inc. (JLI) violated the antitrust laws through Altria’s purchase of a minority interest in JLI and was seeking to require Altria to divest.
On February 24, 2022, a ruling by Chief Administrative Law Judge D. Michael Chappell dismissed in their entirety claims by the FTC that Altria and JLI violated antitrust laws through Altria’s $12.8 billion purchase of a 35% interest in JLI.
The FTC sought to require Altria to divest its interest in JLI in a three-week-long adversarial administrative proceeding last summer. At trial, Beth Wilkinson handled opening statements and examined multiple high-profile witnesses, including Altria’s current and former CEO, Altria’s general counsel, and both sides’ economic experts. Moira Penza led the presentation of the scientific evidence and examined Altria’s scientists. The Wilkinson Stekloff trial team also included James Rosenthal and Ralia Polechronis.
In post-trial briefs filed in August, the defense team argued that the FTC failed to prove its central assertion that Altria had removed its own e-vapor products from the market pursuant to an agreement with JLI and argued that there are no anticompetitive effects flowing from the transaction.
The result has been covered in the business and legal press, including earning the Wilkinson Stekloff team honorable mention recognition in Law.com Litigator of the Week.