Nassau, The Bahamas (PRWEB) May 14, 2010
The People Against Tobacco Foundation announced today that it has concluded negotiations with four tobacco manufacturers to settle healthcare and smuggling claims of the foundation's international membership.
"This is a major milestone in the global fight for justice for an enormous community of persons injured all over the world by the callous behavior of tobacco companies," said James C. Shelley, the foundation's chairman and former president of Bank of America (Canada).
Terms of the settlement, including names of the specific tobacco companies reaching agreement, were not disclosed due to confidentiality agreements. Negotiations with additional tobacco companies are ongoing.
The foundation, based in Nassau, was organized in 2005 by Yank Barry, an international soy-products businessman and philanthropist. Barry created the foundation as an umbrella organization to represent its member countries in a collective effort to secure damages for medical costs caused by using tobacco products and for widespread violation of import taxation regulations. The foundation was a successor to the TL Fund, associated with the Russian Federation's early litigation challenge against U.S. tobacco companies.
"We simply took what the U.S. tobacco companies agreed was appropriate self-punishment in the 50 American states – paying their own country hundreds of billions of dollars in perpetuity – and took that concept to the world stage," Barry said, referring to the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement reached in 1998.
"And when just one tobacco company admitted in U.S. federal court in New York what everyone knew was going on -- that there has been rampant smuggling of tobacco products and clear violation of many countries' importation laws all across the world -- then it made sense for the foundation to bring those companies to international justice on those grounds as well," Barry added, referring to the $1.25 billion settlement in 2004 of litigation brought by 10 member nations of the European Union.
Barry used his international business connections to recruit governments around the world into the foundation's risk-free membership. Country members
agreed to share with the foundation any recovery obtained on their behalf by the foundation, in consideration for the foundation advancing all costs of litigation preparation, travel, administrative expenses and the prosecution of settlement negotiations.
"There really is strength in numbers," said Barry, who declined to identify by name the foundation's membership or the total number of citizens who will benefit from the settlements. "Let's just say it really is in the hundreds of millions of deserving people," he said.
Initial discussions between representatives of the tobacco industry and the foundation began in 2008, when the foundation's attorney, Milton Ferrell of Miami, was approached by lawyers for a single company. Negotiations were delayed during Ferrell's subsequent illness and eventual death from complications of mesotheliona, a cancer linked primarily to asbestos.
None of the companies has admitted to any wrongdoing as part of the settlements.
"I never doubted this day would come," said foundation director Oliver "Buck" Revell, former associate deputy director of the F.B.I. "The American tobacco industry already had agreed to pay staggering penalties for what it did both to its own citizen's healthcare and for what one of its individual members did to flout the laws of 10 foreign countries. Why shouldn't, why wouldn't tobacco companies be forced to admit doing exactly the same thing in every far corner of the earth?"