In the face of increasing scrutiny from international and national regulators, the Altria Group has decided to write down investments in the JUUL e-cigarette company by $ 4.5 billion.
About a third of the $ 12.8 billion the tobacco giant had invested in JUUL a little less than a year ago.
What a difference a year has made.
JULY, which has become synonymous with the vaping phenomenon that has swept the United States, was once hailed as being on the forefront of a wave of companies that made smoking obsolete and nicotine consumption safer for consumers.
The company began to have problems as its popularity grew exponentially (partly by allegedly resorting to some of the same tactics that big tobacco used to target underage consumers).
As complaints began to roll in, and as JULY was held responsible for an explosion in the use of tobacco products among underage Americans, little also began to increase.
First, the company was forced to restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products. Now it can be forced to pull all their flavors directly.
None of the company's problems have been helped by the wave of gun-related illnesses that have swept through the United States and caused more deaths in users in several states.
A new case against the company (filed two days ago) actually claims that JUUL deliberately sold contaminated pods despite warnings from at least one employee.
First reported by BuzzFeed, the lawsuit was brought by Siddharth Breja, a former senior vice president of global finance at Juul from May 201
Breja claims he was fired for complaining about the charge – an allegation of that a spokesman for JUUL called "baseless".
"[Breja] was terminated in March 2019 because he failed to demonstrate the leadership skills needed in his role," a spokesman for JUUL wrote in an email. "The allegations of security issues with Juul products are equally worthless, and we have already investigated the underlying production issue and determined that the product met all applicable specifications."
The writing of Altria follows an announcement by JUUL that it intends to lay off about 500 people – or about 10% of the workforce.