You are fooling yourselves and your remaining shareholders if you think you can run a company when every day some local court somewhere in the U.S. could force you to put up a multibillion-dollar bond.
That's not business. That's Russian roulette.
Join the discussion on
Message Boards. Today you should file for Chapter 11. That will enable you to restructure this company in two parts: the part that you run, called
-- least you figured that out -- and the part that the government can administer, called Philip Morris Trust Co. (Look at it on the bright side: You would stop making these plaintiffs' lawyers richer than Bill Gates.)
Tobacco just becomes this wind-down asset. Every penny goes to financing health care for what your product has done. It is going to happen anyway.
And then you can get on with running a very profitable food business that will, if you don't do this, begin to erode like so many of the other food companies.
Advantage: you stop gambling your company on every Tom, Dick and Harry circuit judge in the country.
Disadvantage: you cancel the dividend. But I got news for you, good news: When you get a dividend that high, nobody thinks you are going to pay it, so you aren't fooling anybody.
Oh yeah, just so there is no
backlash (that's where I bash a company because I think it is right to, not because I want to make money), I am neither long nor short Philip Morris.
In fact, I don't even give a damn what happens to Philip Morris. But I have a much better grip on the reality of their situation than they and their legal team may. And underneath their battle-hardened, smoky exterior, maybe they have brains and hearts like the rest of us.
James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund had no positions in any stocks mentioned. His fund often buys and sells securities that are the subject of his columns, both before and after the columns are published, and the positions that his fund takes may change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Cramer's writings provide insights into the dynamics of money management and are not a solicitation for transactions. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to comment on his column at