Major Meat Corporations Pay Millions to Settle Price-Fixing Suits

Grocery shoppers, restaurant chains, and supermarkets accused Tyson, JBS, and others of conspiring to raise pork and poultry prices. After a four-year legal battle, it’s unclear whether settlements will discourage future collusion.

 

By Claire Kelloway, Food & Power

via Civil Eats - February 15, 2021

 

Late last month, Tyson Foods agreed to pay $221.5 million to settle several private lawsuits brought by poultry buyers who accused the corporation of colluding with competitors to raise chicken prices. Tyson joins other dominant poultry and pork corporations in settling private price-fixing suits after Pilgrim’s Pride pled guilty to similar charges brought by the Justice Department this fall.

 

These settlements mark the end of a four-year legal battle in which grocery shoppers, restaurant chains, and supermarkets accused major meat corporations of conspiring to raise pork and poultry prices. While these payouts are not an admission of guilt, the size and timing of the settlements make some antitrust experts suspect foul play.

 

“When you see a settlement like this what it tells you is that the defendants have made the assessment that there’s a substantial likelihood that they will lose and they will lose big,” says emeritus law professor and former federal antitrust attorney Peter Carstensen. “That is, the jury will not only find that they colluded but that the collusion resulted in significant damages.”

 

While hundreds of millions for cheated customers is nothing to sneeze at, it is not clear if these payments will discourage future collusion. One study found that most corporations that settle out of court end up paying less in penalties than they made off the conspiracy (and that’s only the unlucky few who get caught). To deter price-fixing, antitrust experts want to see criminal charges for executives, new restrictions on information sharing between competitors, and broader efforts to address the industry consolidation that makes price-fixing easier to begin with.

 

Tyson recently settled three class-action lawsuits brought by wholesale buyers...

 

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