Popeye’s Supplier and The Cheesecake Factory Are the Latest to Join Consolidated Chicken Antitrust Lawsuit

Although settlements are starting to close some matters in the consolidated lawsuit purporting anticompetitive conduct in the chicken processing marketplace, some restaurants are just joining the matter, adding their allegations to many others.  On Wednesday, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated filed a complaint in the matter, and on Monday a complaint was filed by Supply Management Services, Inc., a Georgia corporation which supplies Popeye’s restaurants.  

The Cheesecake Factory’s complaint, which has been moved into the Northern District of Illinois consolidated matter, cited that the California-based company operates 294 restaurants in the United States and Canada. It has contracted with the defendants, which includes multiple chicken processing companies, to provide its supply of broiler chickens through its distributors Nealy Foods, Inc. and Halperns’ Steak and Seafood Company.  These distributors reportedly assigned their claims from the transactions to The Cheesecake Factory. 

Supply Management Services filed its complaint on Monday and its claims were moved into the consolidated matter on Tuesday. The plaintiff explained that Popeye’s is “one of the world’s largest chicken quick service restaurants” with over 3,100 locations. Because of this, the plaintiff purchased a significant amount of broiler chickens for delivery, sometimes through distributors, to its many stores. 

Both of the plaintiffs filed a similar form complaint to those filed by other restaurants and joined Section II of the Amended Consolidated Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial filed by the class of direct action plaintiffs. The three claims cited as causes of action, each related to the Sherman Act, include anticompetitive conduct, output restriction, and dock manipulation. 

Supply Management Services added an additional count against some defendants, Claxton Coch, Mar-Jac, Pilgrim’s Pride, George’s, and Tyson, alleging under the Sherman Act that they did not engage in the bidding process as expected by the plaintiff, but rather “exchanged confidential information with each other regarding bids … so that their supposedly competitive bids were aligned.” The company cited incidents where it invited the defendants to bid and where the responses were purportedly rigged. The complaint further cited that Pilgrim’s Pride pled guilty in a Colorado District Court criminal lawsuit to the alleged antitrust activities. 

The Cheesecake Factory, represented by Carlton Fields and Sperling & Slater, and Supply Management Services, represented by Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson and Miller Law, each asked the court for damages and other fees.