Universal buys, sells, and processes flue-cured and burley tobacco. It also holds a 49% interest in Socotab, LLC, a large dealer in oriental leaf tobaccos. The company does not manufacture cigarettes or other consumer tobacco products, although its largest customer is Altria Group (owner of Philip Morris USA).
After the 1911 breakup of the American Tobacco Company trust, Jacquelin (sic) P. Taylor incorporated Universal out of six formerly independent leaf merchants.
In 2010, Universal along with Alliance One International were accused of violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977. The company is alleged to have paid US$10,000 to the wife of an official in the Mozambique Ministry of Agriculture to secure favorable tax treatment in that country. In 2010, Universal paid about $10 million in restitution and penalties to settle the charges.
U.S. Crackdown on Industry Practices Overseas by Traver Riggins and Ricardo Sandoval Pal, 11 August, 2010, Center for Public Integrity U.S. Crackdown on Industry Practices Overseas by Traver Riggins and Ricardo Sandoval Pal, 11 August, 2010, Center for Public Integrity
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