Banner: Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr.
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For Immediate Release
December 8, 1999
Contact: Sean Caine, 410-576-6357
scaine@oag.state.md.us

STATE SEEKS ORDER TO PROTECT TOBACCO FUNDS

The Office of the Attorney General announced today that there is a breakdown in negotiations between the Law Firm of Peter Angelos and the State over the attorney's fees. The Attorney General is asking the court to decide whether the State is correct in insisting that the Law Firm first go to arbitration. The office is asking the Baltimore City Circuit Court to issue a temporary restraining order to ensure that the first $55 million payment from the tobacco settlement falls under sole control of the State of Maryland. The pleading spcifically asks the court to (1) prevent the payment from going into a joint escrow account with Baltimore attorney Peter Angelos and (2) to order Mr. Angelos to enter into arbitration proceedings with the tobacco industry in order to recover his fee directly from the tobacco industry instead of taking a share of the $4.4 billion promised to Marylanders.

Under the terms of the $206 billion Master Settlement Agreement, reached last year between the tobacco industry and 46 states, the District of Columbia, and five territories, private attorneys representing the states may recover their fees by going before an arbitration panel. Funds awarded through arbitration are paid directly by the tobacco industry and have no affect on the amount of money promised to the states as part of the settlement agreement.

The suit also asks the court to place the first $55 million payment, due in mid-December, under the sole control of the State rather than allow it to go into a joint escrow account so the Maryland public will get the immediate benefits of the money to spend on public health programs and lessen the economic impact on Maryland tobacco farmers.

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