NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Bennett LeBow, whose company owns the Liggett Group, is burning the tobacco industry again. It was revealed Thursday that he is willing to hand over confidential documents about the health effects of cigarettes to state attorneys general suing the industry.
The industry vilified LeBow last March for settling anti-tobacco litigation with five states suing the company for health costs related to smoking. Liggett is the smallest of the major tobacco firms.
As they did back in March, Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds immediately blasted LeBow's and Liggett's latest move, vowing to fight in court any disclosure of the legal documents.
"I think the chance these documents would be released is very slim because the plaintiffs can turn these documents around and use then against Liggett," said Melissa Ronan, tobacco litigation analyst. "There is no way for Liggett to insure, short of declaring bankruptcy, that these documents will not be used against them."
LeBow and Liggett wouldn't comment Thursday, but Wall Street perceives a broader agenda at work. Some analysts, like Martin Feldman at Smith Barney, believe LeBow may still be maneuvering to take over RJ Reynolds or, at the very least, trying to inflate the value of Liggett. (199K WAV) or (199K AIF)
Indeed, despite the controversy over LeBow's latest ploy, some lawyers are wondering just how many secrets remain to be discovered by the anti-tobacco forces. Minnesota, for example, already has 28 million pages of tobacco company documents on file.
Still, you can bet every state suing the tobacco companies would like to see what LeBow can offer.