Final Approval Given to Settlement Between Peanut Farmers and Shelling Companies Birdsong and Olam

The Eastern District of Virginia filed a memorandum opinion and order giving final approval to the settlement between two large peanut processing companies and runner peanut farms in a class action lawsuit purporting that the peanut companies conspired to reduce the price they paid farmers for the peanuts they would process and sell. 

This approval followed a settlement fairness hearing which was heard on March 25, 2020. The defendants, Birdsong Corporation, Golden Peanut Company LLC, and Olam Peanut Shelling Company Inc., shell harvested runner peanuts produced by the named plaintiffs, D&M Farms, Mark Hasty, Dustin Land, Rocky Creek Peanut Farms LLC, Daniel Howell, and Lonnie Gilbert, along with others included in the class of plaintiffs. 

According to the filing the plaintiffs alleged in their complaint that following weather-related price changes between 2011 and 2013 the price paid by shellers like the defendants to peanut farms remained unusually flat. Because of this, the plaintiffs accused the three companies of antitrust activities between 2014 and 2019. 

The $57,750,000 million settlement given final approval by the court was between the plaintiffs and two defendants, Olam and Birdsong, it was given preliminary approval in December, and the plaintiffs shortly asked for final approval. The court in its order considered the class representatives, the settlement process, the amount of relief, and the methods outlined for distribution of the settlement fund. 

The third company, Golden Peanut, settled with the plaintiffs on March 4, after the parties asked for final approval of the first settlement.  The parties recently asked for preliminary approval of this second $45 million settlement with Golden Peanut. 

Birdsong is represented by Kaufman & Canoles, Golden Peanut is represented by Kirkland & Ellis, and Olam is represented by Latham & Watkins. The plaintiffs are represented by Durrette Arkema Gerson & Gill, Lockridge Grindal Nauen P.L.L.P., Freed Kanner London & Millen LLC, and Spector Roseman & Kodroff P.C