Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson and State Treasurer Scott Meacham said Oklahoma has received more than $85.1 million from the tobacco industry, 75 percent of which went directly into the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Fund.
This year’s payment was bolstered by the first receipt of Oklahoma’s share of strategic contribution funds. These funds were awarded to the state for the strategic contribution Edmondson, his office and local counsel made to the prosecution of the lawsuit and will be added to Oklahoma’s annual tobacco payment in each of the next ten years. Oklahoma should receive about $26.8 million in strategic contribution funds each year.
In August 1996 Oklahoma became the 14th state to file a lawsuit against the tobacco companies, asking for restraints against the industry and monetary damages for state funds spent treating smoking-related illnesses. Oklahoma sought about $1 billion in damages.
In November 1998, Edmondson and seven other attorneys general announced they had, on behalf of the states, negotiated a historic settlement with big tobacco. The settlement imposed sweeping changes in tobacco advertising, banned the tobacco companies from targeting children, allocated funding for tobacco education efforts and provided the states annual payments based on the number of cigarettes sold in the country. The total of payments over 25 years was projected to be in excess of $206 billion, and payments will continue as long as cigarettes are sold.
Oklahoma’s share of the settlement is estimated to be $2.03 billion over 25 years. An additional $268 million was awarded to the state for the strategic contribution Edmondson, his office and local counsel made to the prosecution of the lawsuit. Attorney fees were paid by the tobacco industry and did not come from Oklahoma’s share of the settlement.
Meacham’s office confirmed receipt of a wire transfer in the amount of $85,127,711.30 from the trustee of the tobacco settlement funds. More than $63.8 million was deposited in Oklahoma’s Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Fund, which now has a balance of more than $418.3 million.
The Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Fund was created by a voter-approved amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution in 2000, which specifies that only the earnings from the trust fund may be spent on programs to improve the health and well being of Oklahomans, particularly children and senior adults.
Meacham said the funds deposited into the tobacco trust account are already being put to work.
“As soon as the money arrived, we placed it into the investment portfolio to begin generating income to further the goals of the trust,” Meacham said. “Last year, we generated $10.3 million for use by the trust, reflecting a $3.5 million or 52 percent increase from the previous year. During the next five years, the trust will receive a net benefit of $18.5 million in additional income due to strategic management changes we have implemented.”
Source: Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office, www.oag.state.ok.us/