On Monday, ALDI Inc. filed a complaint in the Northern District of Illinois against Agri Stats, Inc. and a slew of meat producers alleging the defendants conspired to increase the price of pork sold in the United States in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. This complaint joins a list of other complaints and a similar large-scale lawsuit alleging the same anticompetitive behavior against the defendants.
The defendants also include Clemens Food Group, LLC, Clemens Family Corporation, Hormel Foods Corporation, Hormel Foods LLC, Seaboard Corporation, Seaboard Foods LLC, Smithfield Foods, Inc., Triumph Foods, LLC, Tyson Foods, Inc., Tyson Prepared Foods, Inc. and Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc.
The complaint states that Agri Stats, Inc. is a specialized information-sharing service company that obtains data from participating industry producers and develops comprehensive reports based on that data. The complaints further state the remaining defendants are the leading suppliers and producers of pork and collectively control approximately 80% of the United States wholesale pork market.
According to the complaint, ALDI is an Illinois corporation headquartered in Batavia, Illinois that from 2009 to the present purchased pork at artificially inflated prices from the pork producer defendants.
The plaintiff alleges that as early as 2009, the defendants coordinated with each other to restrict the output of pork and pork products with the intention of increasing and stabilizing pork prices in the United States. The plaintiff further alleges that the defendants did this by exchanging detailed and competitively sensitive non-public information about prices, capacity, sales volume and demand through the reports produced by their co-conspirator Agri Stats. The plaintiff argues the information exchanged through Agri Star is not the type of information competitors provide to each other in a normal competitive market.
Further, the plaintiff argues that the Agri Stats reports contained information specific to pork producers and ensured that its sensitive business information was only available to the pork producer defendants and no other buyers in the market. The complaint also states the defendants went to great lengths to keep the conspiracy a secret, the defendants admitted in public calls that they had discussed production cuts at least once and publicly signaled to each other that no supply increases would happen.
Additionally, in the complaint the plaintiff argues that Agri Stats’ central role in the collusion of the broiler chicken industry supports an inference that the same anticompetitive behavior exists in the pork industry is likely. Specifically, the complaint noted that when the district court denied motions to dismiss in the In re Broiler Chicken Antitrust Litigation it noted that the nature of the Agri Stats reports and the sharing of information by co-conspirators raises significant antitrust concerns.
The plaintiff alleges that the defendant’s unlawful and anticompetitive conduct caused them to pay artificially inflated prices for pork they would not have paid in a competitive market. The plaintiff seeks declaratory relief, damages, pre and post judgment interest, attorneys fees and costs for the alleged violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act. The plaintiff is represented by Baker Botts LLP.