August 6, 2021
Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. has agreed to pay consumers $75.5 million to settle claims it conspired with competitors to fix the price of broiler chicken, the company’s latest deal in sweeping litigation filed in Illinois federal court over the alleged long-running scheme.
In a filing Thursday, the end-user consumer plaintiffs also said they’d cut a $1 million deal with Mar-Jac Poultry Inc. and its affiliated entities. The consumers counted the class action settlements as the fifth and sixth deals they’ve so far reached, bringing the total value of their settlements to $181 million, almost half of which comes from a $99 million agreement reached with Tyson Foods.
“In addition to monetary recovery, the current settling defendants’ agreement to provide cooperation will also strengthen consumers’ case against the remaining defendants,” the consumers said.
According to the brief, Pilgrim’s specifically agreed to provide up to three “then-current” employees as live trial witnesses. It also promised not to contest the depositions “of eight specified individuals,” agreed to respond to consumer questions “and otherwise assist EUCPs to understand structured data produced by Pilgrim’s,” take “reasonable efforts to authenticate documents,” and sit down with the consumers for seven hours to offer a “reasonably detailed description of the principal facts known to settling defendants,” including details previously given to federal investigators.
The settlement with Pilgrim’s could be called off, according to the brief, “in the unlikely event that more than 500,000 potential class members” bow out. The proposed Pilgrim’s class covers “millions” of consumer purchasers who bought chicken meat or whole chickens through 2020 in any of the roughly two dozen states and Washington, D.C., that have created exceptions to the federal law prohibition on so-called indirect purchasers winning antitrust damages.
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Pilgrim’s represents about 21.5% market share for the class, according to the brief, which extrapolated that amount to gauge how much money could be on the line overall.
So the $76.5 million in settlements equates to $3.6 million per point of market share — putting the value of this case over $360 million at this stage in the litigation,” the consumers said.
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The consumers are represented by Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP and Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC.