MINNEAPOLIS – The law firm of Hagens Berman filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of a group of consumers in the US District Court for the District of Minnesota on June 28, claiming a price-fixing scheme by food companies to collectively raise pork prices since 2009.
Agri Stats, Clemens Food Group, Hormel Foods, Indiana Packers, JBS USA, Seaboard Foods, Smithfield Foods, Triumph Foods and Tyson Foods are implicated in the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, the listed food companies “systematically controlled their output” with Agri Stats providing the information. Agri Stats is a unit of Eli Lilly and Co., which collects financial information on processors.
“On a weekly and monthly basis, Agri Stats provides the pork companies named in the lawsuit with current and forward-looking sensitive, non-public information including profits, costs, prices and slaughter information, as well as regularly provides the keys to deciphering which data belongs to which producers,” The Hagens Berman law firm said in its statement. “This allowed the companies to monitor each other’s production and control supply and price.”
The plaintiffs also claim that Agri Stats supplied “highly sensitive ‘benchmarketing’ reports” to the listed food companies, which allowed competitors to compare their profits and performances.
Hormel was one of the first companies to respond to the allegations.
"Hormel Foods is a 127-year-old global branded food company with a reputation as one of the most respected companies in the food industry,” the company wrote in a statement. “We are confident that any allegations such as these are completely without merit. We intend to vigorously defend this lawsuit."
The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) also released a preliminary statement regarding the lawsuit.
“We just became aware of this legal action and are doing a thorough review of the lengthy complaint. Until that review is complete, we cannot provide a detailed reaction,” said NAMI President and CEO Barry Carpenter. “We can say, however, that our member companies are committed to operating in full compliance with the law.”