Six additional defendants were indicted for their roles in a conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chicken products. The indictment also charges one defendant with making false statements and obstruction of justice.
A federal grand jury in the U.S. District Court in Denver, Colorado, returned the superseding indictment this week. A Justice Department official says. “Executives who choose collusion over competition will be held to account for schemes that cheat consumers and corrupt our competitive markets.” The three-count superseding indictment charges ten executives and employees at major broiler chicken producers for their participation in the conspiracy from 2012 through early 2019. T
he six additional defendants include William Lovette, former President and CEO of Pilgrim’s Pride. Others are also from Pilgrim’s Pride, Claxton Poultry Farms, and Perdue Farms. This case is the result of an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price-fixing, bid-rigging, and other anticompetitive conduct in the broiler chicken industry.
The U.S. District Court in Minnesota dismissed an anti-trust lawsuit against meatpackers like Tyson Foods, JBS, the National Beef Packing Company, and Cargill. R-CALF led several plaintiffs in filing the lawsuit. Chief Judge John Tunheim did leave open the opportunity for plaintiffs to amend their complaint.
Tyson Foods says, “We’re pleased with the court’s decision.” In the ruling, the judge says the complaint didn’t give much evidence of how meatpackers conspired to manipulate prices for fed cattle; instead, “it resorted to group pleading, arguing that the market did this or that.” In his written opinion, Tunheim says, “The most specific allegations related to 2015 when JBS dropped its annual slaughter volume by 17 percent, National Beef by six percent, and Tyson by four percent.
Plaintiffs then say little about the defendants in the years that follow when slaughter volumes actually increased. As for other allegations like a reduction in the number of cash cattle purchased, the judge says plaintiffs rely almost exclusively on industry-wide data and ask the court to infer that the individual defendants all contributed to the decrease simply because they make up a majority of the industry.
The Ranchers Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, the United Stockgrowers of America, and the Farmers Educational and Cooperative Union of America filed the lawsuit in April of 2019.