Parties in Pork Antitrust Case Argue Whether Peanut Antitrust Ruling is Applicable

Defendants in a Minnesota pork antitrust case sent a letter Tuesday to Judge John R. Tunheim in response to arguments made in a letter written on behalf of the plaintiffs that was sent last week. The plaintiff’s letter cited a May decision on a peanut antitrust case in the Virginia Eastern District which they claimed supports their argument in the pork case.

Donald G. Heeman of Spencer Fane, who wrote the letter, represents JBS USA Food Company. He wrote the letter on behalf of the other defendants in the antitrust case, including Agri Stats, Inc.; Clemens Food Group, LLC; Hormel Foods Corporation; Indiana Packers Corporation; Mitsubishi Corporation; Seaboard Foods, LLC; Smithfield Foods, Inc.; Triumph Foods, LLC; Tyson Foods, Inc.; The Clemens Family Corporation; and Hatfield Quality Meats, Inc.

The defendants claim the case addressed in the letter, D&M Farms v. Birdsong Corp, differs from their own because its complaint has “specific factual allegations of parallel conduct by the defendants.” Heeman also noted what the court has said they will consider at this stage of the pork antitrust case, claiming the case does not fit.  The letter says “the D&M Farms decision is of little persuasive value on these subjects.”

The plaintiff’s letter also alerted the court to subpoenas issued to large beef producers including Tyson and JBS, which the Justice Department indicates extends to potential antitrust activities in pork markets as well. The defendants claimed this is not an applicable argument and comes from a June 5th Wall Street Journal article.

“Even if the unattributed hearsay in the article about the scope of government civil subpoenas to certain parties were assumed to be true, a government request for information does not transform otherwise implausible allegations into plausible ones – as numerous courts have recognized,” the defendant’s letter stated.

The class-action case, which began in 2018, was filed by individuals who purchased pork directly or indirectly from the defendants, restaurants, and other food companies. They alleged antitrust activity dating back to 2009, including a conspiracy between the defendants to fix, raise, and stabilize the price of pork through Agri Stats reports.