Antitrust allegations against major players in the chicken industry continue to build. This week Whatabrands LLC and Whataburger Restaurants LLC filed a complaint and a separate complaint was filed by chicken suppliers Columbia Meats Inc. and Greenville Meats Inc. Both parties alleged that the anticompetitive conduct of the defendants caused them to pay higher prices for chicken.
The complaint filed by Whataburger was quickly combined into the multidistrict litigation matter with other allegations from restaurants where settlements are already occurring. The complaint filed by Columbia Meats and Greenville Meats on Wednesday is currently not in the consolidated action, but a motion has been filed asking the court to move it.
Whataburger is a regional fast food restaurant based in Texas, its complaint said that it is joining Section II of the Direct Action Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint, and asked the court for damages, post-judgment interest, and attorneys’ fees.
Columbia Meats and Greenville Meats filed a 108-page complaint with allegations similar to those in other complaints, rather than joining in on a complaint already filed in the multidistrict litigation matter. Their complaint alleged that beginning in 2008 the defendants used detailed reports provided by Agri Stats, one of the defendants, to engage in a conspiracy to increase the price of broiler chickens and their profits. Allegedly the defendants decreased production and manipulated price indexes. These plaintiffs claimed that they purchased chicken directly from the defendants curing the conspiracy, and suffered injury because of the increased prices.
Many other restaurants and chicken suppliers are already involved in the lawsuit, which has hundreds of plaintiffs. A criminal lawsuit involving individuals who run some of the defendant companies, including Pilgrim’s Pride, with similar allegations is being heard in the District of Colorado.