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Philip Morris, Reynolds American Settle Database Dispute With DOJ

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES Altria Group Inc.'s (MO) Philip Morris USA and Reynolds American Inc.'s (RAI) R.J. Reynolds agreed to improve public availability of internal documents about tobacco industry practices and pay $6.3 million into a fund to do so, the U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday. The agreement resolves a dispute between tobacco companies and the U.S. about the online document databases. According to the department, a court in 2006 ordered the creation of the databases after ruling cigarette companies had suppressed internal documents, information and research in order to deliberately deceive consumers about tobacco's health effects and a range of industry practices like manipulating cigarette design to increase addiction and marketing to youth. The court ordered the companies provide public access to all documents they turned over in all smoking-and-health lawsuits in the U.S. for the next 15 years through online document websites and a hard-copy archive known as the Minnesota Depository. The companies agreed to pay $6.3 million to a court fund supporting the online collection of tobacco documents. The proposed consent order will not become final until it is reviewed and signed by the court. Messages left with both companies seeking comment weren't returned immediately. Altria shares were down 24 cents at $28.75, while Reynolds American's were down 18 cents at $40.57. -By Joan E. Solsman, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2291; joan.solsman@dowjones.com

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