Michael Hering, Chief Counsel

The NAAG Tobacco Staff specializes in matters related to the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (“MSA”). Its staff is dedicated to helping the attorneys general of the signatory States (“Settling States”) interpret, implement, and enforce this agreement. The Tobacco Staff is devoted exclusively and long term to maintaining and strengthening the MSA and state regulation of the tobacco industry.

NAAG Tobacco counsel supports the leadership work of the NAAG Tobacco Committee chaired by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, with Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller serving as vice chair. The Committee co-chairs sent a July 8, 2013 NAAG letter to the new director of the Center for Tobacco Products at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about tobacco issues at the state and federal level. To read the letter, click here.

Our Mission

To provide highly qualified and experienced attorneys and support staff to preserve the MSA and to maximize its value to the Settling States by supporting their efforts to enforce, defend and improve the agreement. NAAG counsel work includes:

  • representing the States in court in MSA-related litigation,
  • supporting the States on MSA-related litigation, including providing expertise on legal and factual issues and on tactics and strategy,
  • representing the States in bankruptcy court when a tobacco manufacturer files for bankruptcy,
  • providing legal advice on any matter related to the MSA or tobacco regulation,
  • assisting States in settling MSA-related disputes,
  • monitoring and corroborating the calculation of MSA payments by the Independent Auditor and providing a thorough understanding of the calculation and disbursement process,
  • monitoring the tobacco companies’ compliance with the MSA’s public health provisions restricting the companies’ marketing and advertising methods, and providing coordination and support for the Settling States’ enforcement of those provisions,
  • providing institutional memory and attorney continuity concerning the MSA,
  • acting as liaison counsel between the tobacco companies and the Settling States,
  • acting as liaison counsel between federal tobacco law enforcement agencies and the Settling States,
  • providing legal advice and expertise regarding federal or state legislation relating to tobacco regulation,
  • providing effective, fast and inexpensive methods of communicating among the Project and the fifty-two Settling States, and
  • evaluating applications for grants from the Tobacco Enforcement Fund and administering grants where approved.

Our Goals

In all our work, we are guided by the following principles. The MSA is a historic, landmark agreement that affects the lives of all Americans. It generates billions of dollars for Settling States to cover the health care costs generated by smoking and has played a significant role in bringing about a decrease in smoking rates among adults and youth in the United States. It has changed the way that tobacco companies operate, greatly restricting the advertising and promotion of their products, dissolving entities and eliminating practices designed to obscure tobacco’s health risks, and creating an entity devoted exclusively to smoking prevention and cessation. The MSA is responsible for raising a generation that has never seen cartoon characters in ads selling cigarettes. The “coolness” of smoking is no longer an advertising message that tobacco companies can send to kids. The NAAG Tobacco Staff is committed to working with the States to preserve, enforce and improve both the MSA’s monetary and public health mandates.

NAAG Staff

  • Michael Hering, Director and Chief Counsel
  • William Lieblich, Deputy Chief Counsel for MSA Public Health Enforcement
  • Vacant, Deputy Chief Counsel for MSA Payment requirements
  • Patricia Molteni, Counsel
  • Tamara Schlinger, Counsel
  • Erjona Fatusha, Paralegal and Project Assistant
  • Lia Metreveli, Paralegal and Content Coordinator


  • Karen Cordry, Bankruptcy Chief counsel, who spends 50 percent of her time doing tobacco work representing the Settling States in bankruptcy court when a tobacco manufacturer files for bankruptcy.

MSA Background

In 1998, the attorneys general of 46 states signed the MSA with the four largest tobacco companies in the United States to settle state suits to recover billions of dollars in costs associated with treating smoking-related illnesses. Four states - Florida, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Texas - settled their tobacco cases separately from the MSA states and are therefore not signatories to the MSA.

The MSA created a broad array of restrictions on the advertising, marketing and promotion of cigarettes. For example, it prohibited the targeting of youth and the use of cartoons in cigarette advertising. It also includes prohibitions on outdoor advertising of cigarettes and the advertising of cigarettes in public transit facilities, as well as the use of cigarette brand names on merchandise, and a host of other restrictions.

The central purpose of the MSA was to reduce smoking, and particularly youth smoking in the United States. Since 1997, when the first State settlement was announced, cigarette sales in the United States have fallen by more than 21 percent. The declines in youth smoking have been even more pronounced.

Despite these gains, tobacco remains the number one cause of preventable death in the United States. As advocates for the public interest, state attorneys general are actively and successfully enforcing the provisions of the MSA to reduce tobacco use and protect consumers.

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