Subclass Moves to Approve $42M Pork Antitrust Settlement with Smithfield

On Friday, the Commercial and Institutional Indirect Purchaser Plaintiffs (CIIPP) in In re Pork Antitrust Litigation filed a motion and supporting memorandum for approval of a settlement between the CIIPPs and defendant Smithfield Foods, Inc. with the District of Minnesota.

The memorandum states that In re Pork Antitrust Litigation represents the consolidation of separately filed putative class actions alleging that the United States’ largest pork suppliers conspired to artificially constrict the supply of pork products and fix pork prices. In this multidistrict litigation, the plaintiffs have been separated into different subclasses including the CIIPPs.

The plaintiffs allege that the defendants exchanged detailed, competitively sensitive and closely guarded non-public information about price, capacity, sales volume and demand through their co-conspirator, Agri Stats, from at least 2009. The plaintiffs argue this exchange of information allowed the defendants to control the supply and price of pork in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act causing the plaintiffs to pay artificially inflated prices for pork.

According to the memorandum, during the ongoing discovery and prosecution of this case, the CIIPPs have negotiated the proposed settlement with Smithfield, the second settlement the CIIPPs have negotiated. The memorandum states that on May 3, 2021, the District of Minnesota granted preliminary approval of a $54.75 million settlement between the CIIPPs and JBS USA Food Company and JBS USA Food Company Holdings, and subsequently granted final approval on November 18, 2021.

The CIIPPs state that the proposed settlement with Smithfield is the result of extensive arm’s length negotiations that will provide the CIIPPs with monetary relief of $42 million as well as non-monetary relief such as cooperation in the prosecution of claims against the remaining, non-settling defendants.

The CIIPPs argue that the court should grant the preliminary approval because it is well within the range of possible approval and is in the best interest of the class members. Additionally, they argue that the court should preliminarily certify the CIIPP settlement class because the class satisfies the threshold requirements of a settlement class under Rule 23. 

The memorandum states that the CIIPPs will ask the court to approve a proposed plan for disseminating notice to the Settlement Class and to schedule a final fairness hearing. Additionally, the CIIPPs state that they will seek entry of a final order and judgment dismissing Smithfield and retaining jurisdiction for the implementation and enforcement of the settlement agreement at the fairness hearing. 

The CIIPPs are represented by Cuneo Gilbert & LaDuca, LLP, and Smithfeild is represented by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, Brown Fox PLLC, Larkin Hoffman Daly & Lindgren Ltd, Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP and Hilgers Graben PLLC