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    Big Tobacco Wins Price-Fixing Appeal

    Cigarette wholesalers could not prove their case against manufacturers, court finds.

    NEW YORK -- A federal appeals court has handed U.S. cigarette companies a victory in a price-fixing case filed by wholesalers.

    In a ruling yesterday, the court upheld a lower court's dismissal of a price-fixing case against Philip Morris USA and other cigarette makers, Reuters reported.

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th District ruled that a district judge in Atlanta correctly found that cigarette wholesalers had not proved that Philip Morris and other tobacco companies conspired to fix wholesale list prices. Philip Morris is a unit of Altria Group Inc.

    Aside from Philip Morris, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, other defendants in the case were Camel brand maker R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc., the Brown & Williamson unit of British American Tobacco Plc and Loews Corp.'s Lorillard Tobacco Co.

    Six separate cases filed by wholesalers against the cigarette companies were consolidated in the class-action suit in January 2001. In July 2002, U.S. District Judge Owen Forrester dismissed the case.

    Several hundred wholesalers, the middlemen between cigarette companies and retailers, were represented in the cases.

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