SPRINGDALE, Ark. — In a May 6 quarterly filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Tyson Foods said that the US Dept. of Justice issued a grand jury subpoena to the plaintiffs in the case for an ongoing price-fixing lawsuit.

Tyson said it was notified on April 26 with the case in the discovery phase.

The company said that decisions on class certification and summary judgment motions likely filed by defendants will not be expected before the “the latter part of calendar year 2020 under the scheduling order currently governing the case.”

"The plaintiffs in the broiler antitrust case notified us that they have been served with a grand jury subpoena from the U.S. Department of Justice requesting all discovery produced in the case since its inception in 2016," said Worth Sparkman, Tyson Foods spokesman. "This request seeks the same information that has already been scrutinized in that case and does not change the company’s view that there is simply no merit to the allegations that Tyson colluded with competitors.  We have no additional information related to the grand jury subpoena and no knowledge at this time of any subsequent action on the part of the Department of Justice. Tyson remains committed to vigorously defending ourselves against the baseless allegations." 

The price-fixing litigation began in September 2016 when Maplevale Farms, a food distributor, filed a lawsuit alleging that Tyson and several other poultry companies named conspired as early as January 2008 to “fix, raise, maintain, and stabilize” prices for broiler chickens.

Additional lawsuits have been filed since including one earlier in 2019 when Kraft Heinz Co., Conagra Brands Inc., Nestle USA Inc. and Nestle Purina Petcare Co. filed a lawsuit in Chicago federal court, claiming Tyson Foods Inc., Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. and other poultry processors conspired to inflate chicken prices.

The court documents say that the poultry companies, listed as defendants, engaged in price fixing from 2008 to 2016.

The filing says chicken suppliers coordinated to destroy chickens in order to reduce the supply of broilers and drive up prices. 

The suit dealt with the price fixing of broiler chickens “…via unprecedented cuts at the top of the supply chain in the form of jointly and collusively reducing ‘breeder flocks’ that produce chickens ultimately slaughtered for meat consumption.”

The second part of the suit alleged manipulation of broiler chicken prices on the Georgia Dock by a group identified as the “Georgia Dock Defendants,” including Pilgrim’s Pride, Tyson Foods, Fieldale Farms, Perdue, Sanderson Farms, Koch Foods, Claxton Poultry, Harrison Poultry, Mar-Jac and Wayne Farms.

According to court documents, “Senior executives from eight of the 10 Georgia Dock Defendants were members of a secretive ‘Georgia Dock Advisory Board,’ which played a role in the compilation and manipulation of the Georgia Dock benchmark price.”

Tyson is also facing an antitrust lawsuit in federal court for an alleged conspiracy to depress prices for fed cattle to the detriment of ranchers and cattle futures traders.