Defendants Question Applicability of Recent Decision to Pork Antitrust Lawsuit

Lawyers for JBS USA Food Company, in a case alleging antitrust activity in the pork industry, responded on Tuesday in the District of Minnesota, on behalf of JBS and the other defendants to a supplemental authority letter that was sent late last week bringing the court’s attention to an opinion in a similar case.

The plaintiffs said the opinion in Jien v. Perdue Farms, Inc. which granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss in part, survived dismissal because of the courts finding that Agri Stats’ conduct, providing real-time data about prices and wages to the poultry industry “can plausibly be alleged to constitute unlawful information sharing.”

The defendants, in Tuesday’s letter, did not discuss the merits of the opinion in Jien, but its connection to the consolidated Pork antitrust lawsuits. They claimed the case cited by the plaintiffs is not about “whether an Agri Stats-led information exchange agreement is sufficient to support a rule of reason claim.” The letter supported this by stating that the judge in the cited case still dismissed antitrust claims against many of the defendants.

The lawyers said that the court which heard Jien v. Perdue Farms focused on secret meetings where executives discussed wages and bonuses. The said Jien and other plaintiffs “alleged that the exchange of Agri Stats data was a means to enforce the agreements made at those secret meetings,” rather than as the main source of information. The defendants said this is not the case in the pork antitrust lawsuit, because there are no allegations of secret meetings or use of data from Agri Stats for enforcement.

The letter also discusses that while in the other case the defendants allegedly looked to Agri-Stats for real-time data, in this instance Agri Stats data is weeks old. “Here, by contrast –where pork prices fluctuate so frequently that the USDA requires pork processors to report detailed price information once or twice daily … Plaintiffs have conceded that the pricing information provided by Agri Stats was not current but instead ‘generally two to six weeks old.’” the letter stated.

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan represents JBS USA Food Company. Agri Stats is represented by Hogan Lovells LLP. The consumer indirect purchaser plaintiffs are represented by Gustafson Gluek PLLC, and Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, among other firms.