January 19, 2021
Two consumer groups suing Tyson Foods in long-running multidistrict litigation over alleged price-fixing in the broiler chicken industry told an Illinois federal judge Tuesday they have reached settlements with the poultry giant.
The motions for preliminary approval of a settlement from end-user consumers and more than 30 commercial and institutional indirect purchaser consumers comes after Tyson reached a preliminary settlement with a proposed class of direct buyers earlier this month. Details of the proposed settlement were not included in the motion.
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Private plaintiffs began suing the nation’s largest broiler chicken producers, including Pilgrim’s Pride, Tyson and Perdue, over allegations of anti-competitive conduct in September 2016. The suits accuse the companies of coordinating and limiting production with the aim of raising prices, as well as exchanging detailed information about prices, capacity and sales volume through data compiler Agri Stats Inc.
The multidistrict litigation includes claims from direct purchasers, commercial indirect purchasers and end-user consumers. It has consisted of a number of smaller settlements in addition to the deals with Pilgrim’s Pride and Tyson.
The commercial and indirect purchaser plaintiffs include various businesses including a Missouri sushi restaurant, a deli in Minneapolis and the Alliance Healthcare System in Mississippi, which operates two outpatient clinics and an acute care hospital.
The U.S. Department of Justice revealed its investigation into the industry in 2019 when it obtained a discovery stay from the court overseeing the private litigation.
In June, the agency announced the indictment of four poultry executives, including the sitting president and CEO of Pilgrim’s Pride and the president of Claxton Poultry, over allegations they participated in a scheme to rig bids and fix prices for broiler chickens. Tyson then disclosed its cooperation with enforcers and said it is applying for leniency.
The DOJ announced the indictment of six more individuals in October, followed by a plea agreement with Pilgrim’s Pride specifying it must pay a penalty of more than $110.5 million and cooperate with the investigation.
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