Chicken Purchasers Seek Final Settlement Approval Regarding Antitrust Claims

Plaintiffs who purchased broiler chickens directly from processing facilities, including primarily restaurants and transportation companies, asked the Northern District of Illinois to grant final approval to their settlement with Tyson and Pilgrim’s Pride to resolve allegations that the companies participated in antitrust activities and artificially raised the price of chicken. 

The settlement addresses allegations against Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., Tyson Foods Inc., Tyson Chicken Inc., Tyson Breeders Inc., and Tyson Poultry. It was given preliminary approval in February after the court found that the settlement was “within the range of reasonableness.” 

In the memorandum supporting final approval, the plaintiffs claimed that the notice program was implemented and satisfies due process and that the settlement is reasonable and fair. Under the settlement Tyson will pay over $79.340 million and Pilgrim’s Pride will pay $75 million. The plaintiffs reported that the response from class members to the settlement “has been uniformly positive,” and that there have not been any objections. Those who opted out of the settlement are plaintiffs who filed separate lawsuits before the preliminary approval was granted. 

Reportedly, the terms of the settlement agreements are similar, although the Tyson settlement was negotiated separately from the Pilgrim’s Pride settlement. Both defendants agreed to cooperate with the plaintiffs according to the Antitrust Criminal Penalty Enhancement and Reform Act, “provide an attorney proffer” with the facts they know related to the alleged conduct, and take reasonable effort to help the plaintiffs understand data and authenticate documents, not oppose depositions, and provide witnesses. The class of direct purchaser plaintiffs agreed to release claims and parties. Both settlements also contain an opt-out mechanism. 

In addition to seeking final approval, the plaintiffs filed a proposed order amending their request for attorneys fees. Previously, they requested that class council be given one third of the settlement fund, which was $170,261,600. Because the settlement from Tyson was reduced by $660,000, the new proposed attorneys fee is not $56,533,866.00.

This is just one settlement in the consolidated matter which contains an end user class and an indirect purchaser class and many other defendants who are also involved in the chicken processing business. A settlement with four defendants, including Tyson, and the end-user plaintiffs was given preliminary approval in March. 

The court will consider the motion in a telephonic hearing on June 29. The co-lead counsel for the direct purchaser plaintiffs is Pearson Simon & Warshaw LLP and Lockridge Grindal Nauen P.L.L.P.  Liaison counsel for the same class is Hart McLaughlin & Eldridge LLC.