Smithfield has now paid around $200 million to settle pork price-fixing allegations after a preliminary settlement of $75 million with a group of consumers was filed in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota. Smithfield had also previously reached a $42 million settlement with a group of indirect purchasers that included restaurant and retail companies and a $83 million settlement with wholesalers. U.S. District Court Judge John Tunheim still has to provide final approval on the latest settlement.
The class-action lawsuit alleged that the defendants and their co-conspirators conspired and combined to fix, raise, maintain, and stabilize the price of pork, as of January 1, 2009, with the intent and expected result of increasing prices of pork in the United States, which is a violation of federal and state consumer and antitrust laws.
Jim Monroe, Smithfield vice president of corporate affairs, stated, “While we deny any lability in these cases and believe that our conduct has always been lawful, we decided that it was in the best interests of the company to negotiate a settlement. This settlement eliminates a substantial portion of our remaining exposure in the antitrust litigation for an amount that we believe is in the best interest of our company, as well as our employees, customers and consumers. It significantly reduces the distraction, expense, exposure and inconvenience of protracted litigation, and it allows us to focus on executing the long-term strategy of our business.”
Monroe added, “While the company expects that the court will grant final approval of the settlement, there can be no guarantee that the court will approve the terms of the agreements as proposed by the parties.”
In a statement provide to Feedstuffs, Shana Scarlett, attorney with Hagens Berman law office, stated: “Cases of this nature set the law straight that massive corporations – including those responsible for feeding the vast majority of American families – should not be allowed to get away with illegally conspiring to raise prices. Antitrust violations pose serious consequences for everyday consumers, and often they have absolutely no knowledge of the scheme behind the price tag.”
The case is still proceeding against other defendants named, including Clemens Food Group, The Clemens Family Corporation, Hormel Foods Corporation, Seaboard Foods, Triumph Foods, Tyson Foods, Tyson Prepared Foods, Tyson Fresh Meats, and Agri Stats.