MINNEAPOLIS – A federal judge dismissed an anti-trust lawsuit launched against some of the leading pork producers in the United States.
The plaintiffs, consisting of different classes of pork buyers, alleged that the defendants — which include Tyson Foods, Hormel Foods, Seaboard Corp. and JBS USA among others — conspired with one another to raise the price of pork products. But Chief Judge John Tunheim ruled that the plaintiffs “…have not adequately pleaded parallel conduct sufficient to support an inference of conspiracy.” The opinion applies to 13 lawsuits that were consolidated into a class action. The court did grant the plaintiffs leave to amend their complaints.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs allege that “…defendants began to discretely conspire with one another to decrease pork production and/or to limit production increases in an effort to raise the price of pork…” starting in 2009.
The pork companies carried out the conspiracy via public statements aimed at one another “emphasizing the need to cut production, which also served to signal each defendants’ continued adherence to the overall conspiracy,” court documents state, and by exchanging non-public, detailed, competitively sensitive information about prices, capacity, sales volume and demand through Agri Stats, an alleged co-conspirator.
But Tunheim found that “while the industry-wide data certainly shows that pork production decreased in various years after 2009, it does nothing to indicate how any of the individual defendants acted,” court documents state. “Without specific information regarding each defendant, the court has no basis to analyze which, how many, or when any of the individual defendants may have affirmatively acted to reduce the supply of pork. And that type of information is vital to pleading parallel conduct.”
The case is In re Pork Antitrust Litigation, U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, No. 18-01776.