Angelos to get $150 million for tobacco lawsuit

Attorney Peter G. Angelos will receive $150 million over five years for his work on Maryland’s tobacco lawsuit under a deal with Gov. Parris N. Glendening that will end an unseemly three-year fight between the state’s top Democrats and their party’s biggest financial contributor.While some elements were still being negotiated, the governor said he had reached an “agreement in principle” with Angelos to settle a dispute that could have cost the state much more.AdvertisementAngelos has long claimed he was owed at least $1 billion in the case. In 1996, he signed a contingency fee contract that said his firm would receive 25 percent of Maryland’s proceeds if litigation to recover health-related costs caused by smoking was successful.Maryland is scheduled to receive about $4 billion over the next two decades from a national settlement with tobacco companies.AdvertisementWilliam F. Gately, an attorney for Angelos, confirmed that the two sides had reached agreement on “the heart” of the deal.He said they were still working on other issues, which he declined to identify.A final agreement will release a $123 million escrow account that has been holding some of the state’s tobacco money pending resolution of the dispute.Glendening said he was motivated to settle because lawmakers are planning deep cuts to education and environmental programs.Some of that money could be restored as the General Assembly completes a $22 billion budget for the next fiscal year.”Was that part of my thinking that brought this to fruition? Yes,” Glendening said.The governor said he told Angelos during a telephone conversation Thursday evening, when the bulk of the agreement was reached, that “it would be far better now than two weeks from now.”House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. said he would work with Glendening to restore about $20 million to anti-cancer and smoking-cessation programs backed with tobacco funds and would try to help the governor reach the rest of his goals.Advertisement”I can’t help but focus on the fact that the timing of this is terrific,” Taylor said.Other lawmakers said they were relieved that the dispute was over and thought both sides were getting a good deal.”That’s about where I thought it would end up,” said Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman of Baltimore, chairwoman of the Budget and Taxation Committee.”