A proposed antitrust class action lawsuit out of Florida claims several fish producers operating out of Norway have conspired to fix the prices of farmed Atlantic salmon.
Filed by a Jacksonville, Florida fishery business, the lawsuit stems from a February 2019 European Commission investigation during which several of the defendants’ facilities were raided over suspicions that they “may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices.” According to the 32-page complaint, the defendants—Mowi ASA, Grieg Seafood ASA, Lerøy Seafood Group ASA, SalMar ASA, Scottish Sea Farms Ltd., Bremnes Seashore AS, Ocean Quality AS, and several of their respective subsidiaries—have caused American fisheries to pay more for farmed Atlantic salmon than they would have paid in a competitive market.
The lawsuit points out that the market for farmed Atlantic salmon is a commodity market that should experience significant fluctuations in pricing “as demand and available supply are reported on a historical, spot, and forward-looking basis.” The defendants, the case says, have shielded themselves from the inherent risk of market fluctuations by colluding to keep prices stable, as well as to ensure that they bring in enough money to sustain the continuous costs of farmed salmon’s lengthy production cycle.
According to the case, the market for farmed Atlantic salmon is ripe for anticompetitive collusion, as the defendants reportedly control the majority of the market in the northern hemisphere. The case notes that farmed salmon is sold under long-term contracts that force buyers to pay commodity pricing for the product and discourage them from switching suppliers. The defendants, therefore, have a “captive market” in the United States that allows them to not compete with each other, the suit says.
This lawsuit is the second to be filed against the defendants over their allegedly anticompetitive activities, following a similar suit brought by a New York steakhouse earlier this month.