Earlier this week, Altria Group Inc announced that an administrative law judge dismissed a complaint brought by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), alleging that Altria was acting in an anticompetitive manner in acquiring a stake in the e-cigarette company JUUL.
Altria is the parent company of leading tobacco operating companies such as Marlboro, Copenhagen, and Skoal.
Altria’s Executive Vice President, Murray Garnick, stated in the press release the “we are pleased with this decision and have said all along that our minority investment in JUUL does not harm competition and does not violate the antitrust laws.”
In 2018, Altria discontinued a large quantity of its e-cigarette business and went into acquiring a 35% nonvoting stake into JUUL, which is one of the leading producers of e-cigarettes.
Two years later in 2020, the FTC moved forward in taking Altria to court, alleging the company’s investment was anticompetitive.
The FTC originally alleged that “at the time of Altria’s exit, the relevant market was already highly concentrated. Following Altria’s exit, it became even more concentrated.”
The agency argued Altria used its leading position “across multiple tobacco categories in order to secure substantial and favorable shelf space at retailers throughout the United States.”
The original complaint stated that Altria had violated section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust act of 1890 and section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914, as well as violating section 7 of the Clayton Antitrust Act.
Altria’s press release states that the decision made by the Administrative Law Judge will officially be released later this month and the decision will be reviewed by the FTC which could possibly appeal.