Section 6-12-3

Election between settlement and escrow fund.

(a) Any tobacco product manufacturer selling cigarettes to consumers within the state, whether directly or through a distributor, retailer, or similar intermediary or intermediaries, after June 9, 1999, shall do one of the following:

(1) Become a participating manufacturer, as that term is defined in Section II(jj) of the Master Settlement Agreement, and generally perform its financial obligations under the Master Settlement Agreement.

(2) a. Place into a qualified escrow fund, by April 15 of the year following the year in question, the following amounts, as such amounts are adjusted for inflation:

1999: $.0094241 per unit sold after June 9, 1999;

2000: $.0104712 per unit sold;

For each of 2001 and 2002: $.0136125 per unit sold;

For each of 2003 through 2006: $.0167539 per unit sold;

For each of 2007 and each year thereafter: $.0188482 per unit sold.

b. A tobacco product manufacturer that places funds into escrow pursuant to paragraph a. shall receive the interest or other appreciation on such funds as earned. Such funds themselves shall be released from escrow only under one of the following circumstances:

1. To pay a judgment or settlement on any released claim brought against such tobacco product manufacturer by the state or any releasing party located or residing in the state. Funds shall be released from escrow under this subparagraph (i) in the order in which they were placed into escrow and (ii) only to the extent and at the time necessary to make payments required under such judgment or settlement;

2. To the extent that a tobacco product manufacturer establishes that the amount it was required to place into escrow on account of units sold in the state in a particular year was greater than the Master Settlement Agreement payments, as determined pursuant to Section IX(i) of that agreement, including, after final determination of all adjustments, that such manufacturer would have been required to make on account of such units sold had it been a participating manufacturer, the excess shall be released from escrow and revert back to such tobacco product manufacturer; or

3. To the extent not released from escrow under subparagraphs 1. or 2., funds shall be released from escrow and revert back to such tobacco product manufacturer 25 years after the date on which they were placed into escrow.

c. Each tobacco product manufacturer that elects to place funds into escrow pursuant to this section shall annually certify to the Commissioner of the Department of Revenue that it is in compliance with this section. The Attorney General may bring a civil action on behalf of the state against any tobacco product manufacturer that fails to place into escrow the funds required under this section. Any tobacco product manufacturer that fails in any year to place into escrow the funds required under this section shall:

1. Be required within 15 days to place such funds into escrow as shall bring it into compliance with this section. The court, upon a finding of a violation of this section, may impose a civil penalty to be paid to the General Fund of the state in an amount not to exceed 5 percent of the amount improperly withheld from escrow per day of the violation and in a total amount not to exceed 100 percent of the original amount improperly withheld from escrow;

2. In the case of a knowing violation, be required within 15 days to place such funds into escrow as shall bring it into compliance with this section. The court, upon a finding of a knowing violation of this section, may impose a civil penalty to be paid to the General Fund of the state in an amount not to exceed 15 percent of the amount improperly withheld from escrow per day of the violation and in a total amount not to exceed 300 percent of the original amount improperly withheld from escrow; and

3. In the case of a second knowing violation, be prohibited from selling cigarettes to consumers within the state, whether directly or through a distributor, retailer, or similar intermediary, for a period not to exceed 2 years.

Each failure to make an annual deposit required under this section shall constitute a separate violation.

(b) In the case of units sold which are cigarettes manufactured outside the United States and imported into the United States by an importer:

(1) Importers of the cigarettes shall be jointly and severally liable with the tobacco product manufacturer of the cigarettes for the escrow deposits required under subsection (a)(2);

(2) Importers of the cigarettes may be sued under subsection (a)(2)c. to the same extent as the tobacco product manufacturer, and shall be subject to all of the same civil penalties, remedies, or other relief that may be awarded against the tobacco product manufacturer of the cigarettes as provided in that subsection; and

(3) If the importer of the cigarettes fails or refuses within 15 days of the Alabama Revenue Commissioner's or the Attorney General's written demand to deposit the funds into escrow for which it is jointly and severally liable under subsection (b)(1), all cigarettes imported into the United States by the importer shall constitute contraband in the State of Alabama as provided in Section 6-12A-6(b), and shall be subject to seizure and forfeiture as provided under that section.

(Act 99-395, p. 652, §3; Act 2000-591, p. 1087, §1; Act 2001-344, p. 446, §1; Act 2003-371, p. 1047, §1; Act 2014-341, p. 1266, §1.)