The Second Circuit on Tuesday affirmed a $50 million settlement between Dairy Farmers of America Inc. and farmers who leveled accusations of a milk price-fixing conspiracy, rejecting objectors’ claims that attorneys representing the farmers colluded with opposing counsel.
There is no evidence of any impropriety in a deal reached to end claims that DFA, DFA-affiliated Dairy Marketing Services and Dean Foods Co. had conspired with companies such as Kraft Foods Inc. and Land O'Lakes Inc. to stifle competition in the supply and purchase of raw Grade A milk in the Northeast, the three-judge panel said in a summary order.
“The objectors appear to confuse counsel’s willingness to negotiate in good faith toward a settlement with collusion with defendants,” the court said.
The objectors’ allegations that farmers were coerced into supporting the settlement is also off-base, the appeals court said. The vast majority of class members chose to participate in the settlement rather than opt out, the court said. Regardless of the overwhelming support for the deal, the district court was right to conclude that the settlement was fair and reasonable, the Second Circuit said.
U.S. District Judge Christina Reiss in February 2016 preliminarily approved the deal, the largest dollar-value settlement in Vermont history, which will result in an average recovery of $4,000 per dairy farm.
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