Eric Schneiderman for Attorney General

Judge Orders UPS to Pay $247 Million for Illegally Shipping Cigarettes

May 26, 2017

As published by The New York Times, on May 25, 2017.

UPS must pay $247 million in damages and penalties to New York City and New York State for illegally shipping cigarettes, a federal judge ordered Thursday.

“A very significant award” was necessary because of the public health hazard posed by cigarettes and as a deterrent to future bad conduct, said Judge Katherine B. Forrest of Federal District Court in Manhattan. In her opinion, Judge Forrest wrote that the penalty needed to be substantial enough to send a message to UPS executives.

“The court is convinced that modest penalties would not make a sufficient corporate impact on UPS as a whole,” she wrote.

In March, Judge Forrest found UPS liable for illegally shipping hundreds of thousands of cartons of untaxed cigarettes among Indian reservations, unlicensed dealers and individual consumers. The shipments cost the city and state millions in tax dollars and violated a 2005 agreement between the state and UPS not to ship cigarettes to unlicensed recipients.

Judge Forrest chided UPS in March for having a corporate culture that promoted sales over compliance. On Thursday, she again criticized UPS’s culture, saying that company officials had shown a “lack of acceptance of responsibility for their actions at issue in this case.”

UPS said it was “extremely disappointed” in the ruling.

“The court’s monetary award is excessive and far out of the bounds of constitutional limits, particularly given that the shipments at issue generated around $1 million in revenue,” Susan Rosenberg, director of public relations at UPS, said in an interview.

The ruling in the 2015 lawsuit awards $165.8 million to New York State and $81.2 million to New York City.

“The $166 million coming to our state marks a win for New Yorkers and our public health,” Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York State attorney general, said in statement.

Zachary W. Carter, the city’s corporation counsel, said the award “reflects the serious nature of the offenses at issue.”

Ms. Rosenberg said UPS planned to appeal the ruling.