WASHINGTON – The US Dept. of Justice (DOJ) filed a motion to intervene and stay discovery of evidence in an antitrust lawsuit involving major poultry processors.

A temporary stay was issued “…to all defendant employee and former employee depositions…” until the US District Court Judge Thomas Durkin rules on the motion at a hearing scheduled for June 27.

Springdale, Arkansas-based Tyson Foods Inc., which is named as a defendant in the lawsuit said in a statement, “We are aware of the Department of Justice’s request, which does not change our view that there is simply no merit to the allegations that Tyson Foods colluded with competitors. We remain committed to vigorously defending ourselves against these baseless allegations.”

Food distributor Maplevale Farms filed the antitrust lawsuit on Sept. 2, 2016, against Tyson Foods, Koch Foods, Perdue Farms and several other major poultry processors. The complaint alleges that the defendants conspired as early as January 2008 to “fix, raise, maintain, and stabilize the price of Broilers…”

Sanderson Farms released a statement saying that it "continues to believe the civil plaintiffs’ claims as to Sanderson Farms are wholly without merit, and we are committed to defending the case vigorously.”

The lawsuit alleges that “…The principal (but not exclusive) method by which Defendants implemented and executed their conspiracy was by coordinating their output and limiting production with the intent and expected result of increasing prices of Broilers in the United States. In furtherance of their conspiracy, Defendants exchanged detailed, competitively sensitive, and closely-guarded non-public information about prices, capacity, sales volume, and demand, including through third party co-conspirator Agri Stats.”

The DOJ also issued a grand jury subpoena to the plaintiffs in the lawsuit requesting discovery produced by all parties in the case. Tyson Foods was notified of this action on April 26.

The poultry antitrust case is Maplevale Farms Inc. v. Koch Foods Inc. et al, case number 1:16-cv-08637, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.