Company Flees Lawsuits, Regulation, Eliminating Jobs in New York City

Altria, the parent company of cigarette-maker Philip Morris, is shutting down its headquarters in New York City and will no longer employ the “vast majority” of its employees there. At the same time, it is spinning off its profitable overseas business to an independent entity (Philip Morris International), to be headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland, and shifting its U.S. headquarters to Richmond, Virginia.

It is spinning off its overseas operations in order to shield them from lawsuits in the U.S., like the ones that have forced it to pay billions of dollars to state governments, such as Minnesota, Texas, Mississippi, and Florida, and millions of dollars to individual smokers. Continental Europe in general, and Switzerland in particular, have court systems that are less indulgent towards lawsuits than American courts.

It may be moving its domestic operations to Richmond, Virginia for similar reasons. Virginia has a much lower tax burden than New York, has many fewer regulations, and its judges — both state and federal — are much less sympathetic towards lawsuits than are judges in New York City, like the notorious Jack Weinstein, the archetypal liberal activist judge, who ends up hearing almost all high profile class-action lawsuits in New York City through manipulation of the the judicial case selection process.

(The only area of law where Virginia judges seem to love using lawsuits to redistribute wealth is in the area of divorce and family law, but even in that area of law, Virginia has less of a redistributionist bent than New York State).