Plaintiffs in Salmon Farm Antitrust Case Permitted to Amend Complaint

According to an order issued last week, plaintiffs in an expansive antitrust case alleging a conspiracy in restraint of trade in the salmon farming industry were permitted to file a third amended complaint, which they did the day after.

The underlying case was brought by direct purchasers of salmon from the defendant companies. The defendants are a group of Norwegian seafood companies, Mowi ASA, Grieg ASA, SalMar ASA, Lerøy Seafood Group ASA, and Cermaq Group AS. According to the underlying complaint, the salmon market is vulnerable to manipulation because the spot market for salmon in Oslo, Norway is “the most important benchmark for salmon prices around the world.

In particular, Morpol, a subsidiary of Mowi, elected to purchase salmon from the spot market rather than transferring internally, even though that act served no compettive purpose, according to the plaintiffs.

“Morpol’s spot market purchases create the appearance of greater consumer demand for these fish than actually is present in the market and that increases and/or stabilizes salmon prices at supra-competitive levels when these spot trades are reported to market participants.”

The new complaint was proposed after a conference between plaintiff’s and defense counsel; the plaintiffs sought to clarify that their Sherman Act antitrust claim could be analyzed both as an example of per se illegal price fixing as well as under the “rule of reason” doctrine for cases that do not meet the per se illegal requirements.