Court Denies Attempts to Dismiss Pork Antitrust Claims

The District of Minnesota denied a motion to dismiss filed by businesses involved in the pork industry, including Tyson, JBS, and Hormel, who were accused of anti-competitive activity in an order filed on Tuesday. The court’s order said it made this decision because the amended complaints filed by the plaintiffs “adequately plead parallel conduct,” and a “continuing violation,” which means the claims are not time-barred. 

The order addressed motions in a consolidation of 13 separate putative class action lawsuits, which were consolidated into three classes including direct purchaser plaintiffs, indirect purchaser plaintiffs, and commercial and institutional indirect purchaser plaintiffs, as well as two lawsuits brought by businesses. 

The plaintiffs reportedly were told in the court’s response to a motion to dismiss last year that they had not adequately supported their claims for parallel conduct and they were given 90 days to file amended complaints. The amended complaints were addressed by the defendants in the related motions to dismiss. 

The defendants reportedly control 80 percent of the pork market. The alleged activity began in “at least 2009”; the defendants are accused of conspiring to raise and fix the price of pork through coordinating and limiting production. The defendants reportedly used the company Agri Stats, which is a defendant in the case, to gather financial information about the other companies. The plaintiffs also claimed the conspiracy was run through public statements regarding cutting production. 

Chief Judge John R. Tunheim did dismiss some claims dealing with state laws and where evidence was not sufficiently presented in the amended complaints. Specifically, claims against Indiana Packers were dismissed because the plaintiffs reportedly did not adequately plead parallel conduct in this specific case. Additionally, claims filed by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico were dismissed because they reportedly “failed to adequately plead a claim for conspiracy to monopolize.” Some claims regarding state-specific antitrust, consumer, and unjust enrichment laws were dismissed as well. 

The Direct Purchaser Plaintiffs are represented by Lockridge Grindal Nauen PLLP and Pearson, Simon & Warshaw, LLP. The Consumer Indirect Purchaser Plaintiffs are represented by Gustafson Gluek PLLC and Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP. The Commercial Indirect Plaintiffs are represented by Cuneo Gilbert & Laduca, LLP.