JBS and Direct Purchasers Reach Settlement in Pork Antitrust Suit

Meat processor JBS has reached a settlement with the direct purchaser group of plaintiffs, including wholesalers, in a pork antitrust lawsuit, according to a Minnesota District Court notice filed on Wednesday. The notice did not share the details of the settlement, but said that the plaintiffs would move for approval of the settlement with the court. 

“JBS USA has entered into an agreement to resolve all claims against the company regarding the direct sale of pork products,” a spokesman for JBS said. “While JBS USA denies the allegations in the lawsuit and does not admit any liability, we believed a settlement was in the best interests of the company.”

This was the first notice of settlement filed in the consolidated case, which has multiple other defendants, including Tyson Foods, Hormel, and Agri Stats. There are also two other classes of plaintiffs, indirect purchasers, and commercial and institutional indirect purchasers, so JBS will still be involved in the consolidated suit, which is being heard by Judge John R. Tunheim. 

The companies were accused of conspiring and using Agri Stats’ provided data to reduce supply and increase the price of pork above market value. The conduct purportedly began in at least 2009, among the defendants who control about 80 percent of the market for pork. The court denied a motion to dismiss the case in October, determining that the plaintiffs’ claims of parallel conduct and continuing violation were adequate. Some of the same defendants are also involved in antitrust lawsuits for other meats including chicken, beef, and turkey. 

On Wednesday, a stipulation was also filed explaining the agreed pretrial scheduling order, with deadlines for parties to meet in November, documents to be provided by mid-March, and a completion of production for data and documents by the beginning of September. 

The direct purchaser plaintiffs are represented by Lockridge Grindal Nauen P.L.L.P. and Pearson, Simon & Warshaw, LLP. JBS is represented by Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP