Altria Group, Inc.
Altria, through its subsidiaries, manufactures and sells cigarettes, smokeless products, and wine 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 (colloquially called "e-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 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, or 35% stake, 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.