SEATTLE – Bob Ferguson, attorney general for the state of Washington, sued 19 chicken producers on accusations of “a wide-ranging illegal conspiracy” to inflate and manipulate prices for chicken through rigged contracts and coordinated supply reductions.
The companies named in the lawsuit are Tyson Foods Inc., Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., Sanderson Farms Inc., Perdue Farms Inc., Koch Foods Inc., Foster Farms LLC, Mountaire Farms Inc., Wayne Farms LLC, Amick Farms LLC, George’s Inc., Peco Foods Inc., House of Raeford Inc., Fieldale Farms Corp., Case Foods Inc., Mar-Jac Poultry, Claxton Poultry Farms, Simmons Foods Inc., O.K. Foods Inc. and Harrison Poultry Inc.
The lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court, accuses the companies of illegal and anticompetitive behavior. Agri Stats, an agricultural data and information service, was included in the complaint. Agri Stats presented the poultry companies’ pricing data in a way that made them easy to identify, according to the complaint.
“The producers utilized Agri Stats to share information about their pricing, future production, profitability and costs — the type of information that competitors do not normally exchange in a competitive market,” according to the attorney general’s office. Ferguson is seeking millions of dollars in restitution for Washington residents and businesses in addition to civil penalties.
“If you’ve eaten chicken in the last decade, this conspiracy touched your wallet,” Ferguson said. “This conspiracy cost middle-class and low-income Washington families more money to put food on their table. I will hold these companies accountable for the profits they illegally made off the backs of hardworking Washington families.”
Washington is the second US state to sue poultry companies on accusations of price fixing. In March, Alaska’s Department of Law announced a $1 billion lawsuit against 21 companies. The state is seeking civil penalties of up to $50 million against each defendant in addition to damages, restitution, attorney fees and costs.