On Wednesday, UniPro Foodservice, Inc. filed a complaint in the Northern District of Illinois against Agri Stats, Inc., and a collection of major pork producers over a conspiracy to control the pork industry and raise prices for profit.
The defendants include Clemens Food Group, LLC, The Clemens Family Corporation, Hormel Foods Corporation, Hormel Foods, LLC, JBS USA Food Company, Seaboard Foods LLC, Seaboard Corporation, Smithfield Foods, Inc., Triumph Foods, LLC, Tyson Foods, Inc., Tyson Prepared Foods, Inc., and Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc.
In the complaint, the plaintiff alleged that defendants Agri Stats, Clemens, Hormel, JBS, Seaboard, Smithfield, Triumph, Tyson and Indiana Packers Corporation entered “into a conspiracy from at least 2009 to the present to fix, raise, maintain, and stabilize the price of pork,” in part by controlling the supply to increase prices. Upon further investigation, the plaintiff found that “Agri Stats reports [are] specific to pork producers, including information on profits, prices, costs, and production levels; instead of being aggregated as industry averages to avoid transactional specificity,” which were used by co-conspirators to “fix, raise, stabilize, and maintain artificially inflated prices for pork sold in the United States.”
Furthermore, the complaint alleged that several of the defendants are vertically integrated companies, designed to control all aspects of commercial pork production; thus, these producers had an “optimal” setup for collusion. Because of this, the defendants were able to control the amount of hogs and sows they owned in a coordinated effort to minimize production and raise prices. Thus, the plaintiff is suing on the counts of a violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act due to this conspiracy having a “direct, substantial, and foreseeable effect on interstate commerce by raising and fixing prices for pork” to “inflated, supracompetitive” levels.
The plaintiff is seeking judgment under Section 1 of the Sherman Act, maximum damages as allowed under federal antitrust laws, treble damages, pre- and post-judgment interest, attorney’s fees and costs, and other relief.