Washington — Tobacco industry lawyers met secretly with Solicitor General Elena Kagan in an effort to avoid the government’s last-ditch attempt to extract billions from companies that illegally concealed the dangers of cigarette smoking, The Associated Press has learned.
Four cigarette makers that control nearly 90 percent of U.S. retail cigarette sales have until Feb. 19 to persuade the government not to go to the Supreme Court and ask the justices to step into a landmark 10-year-old racketeering lawsuit.
In 2006, a judge ruled that the industry concealed the dangers of smoking for decades. Despite that finding, lower courts have said the government is not entitled to collect $280 billion in past profits or $14 billion for a national campaign to curb smoking.
As part of any effort to convince the government that it should skip a trip to the Supreme Court, the tobacco companies may have to drop plans to ask the justices to overturn the ruling that the industry engaged in racketeering.
On behalf of the industry, Washington lawyers Michael Carvin and Miguel Estrada made their pitch against seeking Supreme Court review in a mid-December meeting at the Justice Department with Kagan, according to two Washington attorneys outside the government who are familiar with the meeting in her office.