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Third Amended Complaint Filed in Beef Antitrust Case

A plate of assorted foods.

Food backgrounds: top view of a rustic wooden table filled with different types of food. At the center of the frame is a cutting board with beef steak and a salmon fillet and all around it is a large variety of food like fruits, vegetables, cheese, bread, eggs, legumes, olive oil and nuts. DSRL studio photo taken with Canon EOS 5D Mk II and Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens

Plaintiffs in a consolidated cattle antitrust lawsuit filed their third amended complaint on Monday in the District of Minnesota. The 226-page redacted complaint argued that the defendants “conspired to depress fed cattle prices” causing a price collapse in 2015 and are continuing to suppress the price for beef. 

The defendants include Tyson Foods, JBS, Cargill, National Beef Packing Company, Swift Beef Company, and Marfrig Global Foods. The court dismissed the lawsuit on September 29, agreeing with the defendants that the plaintiffs had not given sufficient detail regarding the direct evidence and had not sufficiently supported their claims that the defendants participated in a price-fixing conspiracy.

The third amended complaint asks the court on behalf of the plaintiffs and multiple putative classes to rule that the lawsuit should be a class action and name representatives and counsel, rule that the defendant’s actions violate the cited federal laws, and award damages to the plaintiffs and injunctive relief. 

The plaintiffs, which include cattle associations and nonprofits, farms, and individuals who own businesses or farms, claimed that since the beginning of 2015 the defendants have used their control of 85 percent of the cattle market to raise the price of fed cattle throughout the United States. The price reportedly rose throughout the five years prior to the purported activity, and peaked in November 2014 before crashing.  

Responding to the court’s decision to dismiss the previous complaint, the plaintiffs included graphs and data to show evidence that the companies made similar changes to the numbers of beef that they slaughtered and their prices contributing to the crash in value of beef. 

A graph shown in the complaint, showing prices over time.

Additionally, the plaintiffs argued that the fed cattle market is designed to allow for the collusion, because the market is hard to enter and highly concentrated. They also noted that each of the defendants has a similar cost structure and insight into each other’s prices. The United States Department of Justice is reportedly investigating the defendants for price-fixing. 

This lawsuit is one of many in the meatpacking industry alleging that the major players in the industry conspired to raise prices and increase their profits. Most of these lawsuits list Agri Stats as a defendant and purport that the company facilitated the conspiracies by passing information between the companies, but the present lawsuit does not include Agri Stats in its claims. 

The plaintiffs are represented by Scott+Scott Attorneys at Law, Cafferty Clobes Meriwether & Sprengel, Robins Kaplan, Gibbs Law Group, Kirby McInerney, Paul LLP, and Pearson, Simon & Warshaw, and others which have represented individual defendants. Tyson is represented by Perkins Coie and Dykema Gossett, JBS is represented by Bassford Remele and McGrath North, Cargill is represented by Greene Espel and Mayer Brown, Marfrig Global Foods is represented by Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Stinson Leonard Street, and National Beef Packing Company is represented by Jones Day

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