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US FTC drops Altria complaint after Marlboro-maker exits stake in Juul Labs

US FTC drops Altria complaint after Marlboro-maker exits stake in Juul Labs
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Juul e-cigarettes are seen on the counter of a vape store in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 23, 2022. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

By Diane Bartz and Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said on Monday it dismissed a complaint against Marlboro cigarette maker Altria Group (NYSE:) and e-cigarette maker Juul Labs that was brought after Altria bought a 35% stake in Juul.

The agency also said it would vacate an FTC administrative law judge’s decision in favor of the companies in February 2022. Since it has been vacated, it cannot be cited as precedent, the agency said in the statement announcing it was dropping the litigation.

The FTC said in 2020 that Altria’s $12.8 billion investment violated antitrust law because the company acquired the position rather than continuing to compete against Juul in the market for closed-system e-cigarettes.

Altria had exited the stake earlier this year and had asked the FTC to drop the challenge. As of December, its share of Juul was valued at $250 million, down from $12.8 billion in 2018.

Altria said on Monday it was pleased by the FTC dropping its complaint.

Separate from the FTC action, Juul has fought with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration over whether it could sell e-cigarettes in the United States.

Altria’s MarkTen was at one point the second most popular e-cigarette maker, according to the FTC.

In May, Altria said that it will pay $235 million to settle at least 6,000 lawsuits accusing it of fueling a teen vaping epidemic through its former investment in Juul.

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