Mar-Jac and Harrison Poultry Latest to Settle Antitrust Allegations with Direct Purchasers

On Friday, broiler chickens buyers accusing some of the country’s largest poultry producers of engaging in a price-fixing conspiracy announced settlements with defendants Mar-Jac Poultry Inc., its corporate affiliates, and Harrison Poultry Inc., who have agreed to pay $7.98 million and $3.3 million, respectively. The motion seeks preliminary approval of the agreements, and notes that they represent the fourth round of settlements in the sprawling litigation that commenced in 2016 amidst U.S. Department of Justice investigations and indictments.

The motion states that the settlements will bring the direct purchaser plaintiffs’ (DPPs) total recovery to more than $180 million. In addition, the DPPs allege, the fourth round marks an increase in the total settlement value, bringing it to approximately $5.5 million per market share point.  “The ratcheted increases in the Settlement amounts—both on a gross and proportionate basis—support approval of the Settlements,” the filing says.

In addition to the monetary pay-outs, Mar-Jac and Harrison Poultry have agreed to offer testimony authenticating and providing a foundation for the admissibility of documents, which may assist DPPs in the prosecution of their claims against the remaining defendants. The proffered testimony may come in the form of declarations, affidavits, or deposition testimony, the DPPs explain.

The filing argues that Judge Thomas M. Durkin should grant preliminary approval because the settlements were the product of honest and extensive negotiations and will provide the class with significant relief. Though the DPPs ostensibly believe they would have prevailed at trial against Mar-Jac and Harrison Poultry, they agreed to settle in order to obtain cooperation and avoid the risk of an adverse outcome while litigating or trying the case.

In June, the court granted final approval to a DPP settlement with Tyson Foods and Pilgrim’s Pride for more than $154 million. Summary judgement briefing is scheduled to take place this fall as to the DPPs, other plaintiffs, and remaining defendants.

Pearson Simon & Warshaw LLP and Lockridge Grindal Nauen P.L.L.P are co-lead counsel for the direct purchaser class, and Hart McLaughlin & Eldridge LLC is liaison counsel.