Pryor sues tobacco companies to force compliance with escrow law
LITTLE ROCK -- Attorney General Mark Pryor filed suit Monday against 15 small or foreign-based tobacco companies to ensure that they follow state law.
Pryor spokesman Michael Teague said that Arkansas and most other states have laws requiring tobacco companies that were not part of a 1998 national settlement to set up a qualified escrow fund.
That fund operates much like a bond that many businesses must have before they can operate in the state, he said.
The fund is there in case the state files suit against the tobacco companies for violating principles that other tobacco companies agreed to, such as not marketing tobacco products to children or manipulating their product to make it more addictive.
"We want to make sure that if for some reason Arkansas decides to sue them ... there'll be essentially something to sue them for," Teague said.
Arkansas is getting $1.6 billion over 25 years as its share of the national tobacco settlement against large tobacco companies.
The 15 companies sued Monday have not yet set up the required escrow fund, the attorney general's office said, despite notices from the state.