A proposed class action lawsuit has been filed against a group of pork producers and data analysis firm Agri Stats, Inc. claiming the parties conspired to unlawfully inflate pork prices over the past decade. In addition to Agri Stats, the lawsuit names as defendants:
Clemens Food Group, LLC;
Hormel Foods Corporation;
Indiana Packers Corporation;
JBS USA Food Company;
Seaboard Foods, LLC;
Smithfield Foods, Inc;
Triumph Foods, LLC; and
Tyson Foods, Inc.
According to the lawsuit, the defendants—who collectively control more than 80 percent of the wholesale pork market—exchanged sensitive, non-public information regarding their “prices, capacity, sales volume and demand” through reports generated by Agri Stats, who the case puts at the center of the alleged conspiracy.
“Agri Stats provided a means for defendants to obtain and monitor critical and competitively sensitive business information regarding each other’s production metrics, thereby serving as a central and critical part of defendants’ price-fixing scheme, resulting in a remarkably stable and successful anticompetitive cartel,” the complaint explains.
The intent behind the pork companies’ information sharing was to both coordinate how much pork each was contributing to the market and to limit production in order to artificially inflate pork prices, the lawsuit suggests. The defendants’ alleged anti-competitive behavior ultimately led consumers to pay more for pork products than they otherwise would have in a competitive market, according to the case. From the complaint:
“As a result of defendants’ unlawful conduct, plaintiff and the classes paid artificially inflated prices for pork during the class period. Such prices exceeded the amount they would have paid if the price for pork had been determined by a competitive market. Thus, plaintiff and class members were injured by defendants’ conduct.”