Tyson Foods and Pilgrim’s Pride, the two largest chicken suppliers in the United States, agreed to separate settlements on Monday in the Northern District of Illinois for claims from direct purchaser plaintiffs, who filed antitrust allegations against the company included in a consolidated antitrust lawsuit against the two companies and many other chicken producers. The case, captioned as In re Broiler Chicken Antitrust Litigation, began in 2016.
Pilgrim’s Pride agreed to pay $75 million to the direct purchaser plaintiffs to combat allegations that the company conspired with other chicken companies to reduce the amount of chicken it produces and inflate the price of broiler chickens.
“While Pilgrim’s does not admit any liability for the claims alleged in the Broiler Antitrust Civil Litigation, it believes a settlement was in the best interests of the company and its shareholders,” the company said in their court filing. Pilgrim’s Pride said that the settlement will be reflected in its financial statements for the last quarter of 2020. Pilgrim’s Pride already agreed to pay a fine of $110 million to resolve a criminal investigation into the same purported antitrust activities.
According to a Notice of Settlement filed by the direct purchaser plaintiffs, Tyson also reached an agreement with the parties and they are working to finalize the documents. The judge overseeing the case will have to approve both settlements. The plaintiffs said that they will move for an approval of the settlement with Tyson “in the near future.”
“Tyson Foods has reached an agreement in principle to settle a class action lawsuit alleging price fixing filed against Tyson and other poultry companies by entities representing direct purchasers of broiler chicken products,” Gary Mickelson, a Tyson spokesman, said in an email to Food & Beverage Insider. “Tyson believes the resolution is in the best interests of the company and its shareholders and the settlement does not constitute an admission of liability.”
The end user and consumer plaintiffs and the indirect purchaser plaintiffs are not included in either settlement, and the defendants in the consolidated case argued in December that the indirect purchaser’s claims should be barred.
The direct purchaser plaintiffs are represented by Lockridge Grindal Nauen, Pearson Simon & Warshaw, and Hart McLaughlin and Eldridge. Pilgrim’s Pride is represented by Weil Gotshal & Manges. Tyson is represented by White & Case and Axinn Veltrop & Harkrider.