JBS Prepares To Settle Pork Antitrust Case

JBS SA will pay nearly US$13 million to resolve a proposed pork price-fixing class action led by restaurants and retailers, the last plaintiffs with live claims against the meatpacking giant after deals with wholesalers and consumers worth US$45 million, according Bloomberg Law.

The settlement, docketed Thursday, April 15, in the US District Court for the District of Minnesota, is the third eight-figure agreement reached by JBS, which has agreed to escape wholesaler allegations for US$24.5 million and consumer claims for US$20 million.

Those deals have gotten tentative approval from Judge John R. Tunheim. If he approves the “commercial and institutional indirect purchaser” agreement, it will end litigation over the role JBS played in an alleged industry wide scheme to raise prices through coordinated statements and secret data exchanges.

The total price tag for JBS will come to US$57 million. The company has also pledged to cooperate against Tyson Foods, Hormel Foods Corp., Clemens Family, Seabord, and Smithfield Foods. The meatpackers, including JBS, allegedly control 80% of the wholesale pork market.

The consolidated antitrust lawsuit, filed in 2018, is part of a wave of cartel cases involving livestock and protein, including chicken, beef, turkey, tuna, salmon, and eggs. Tuna and chicken executives are facing actual or potential prison time in connection with the price-fixing allegations.

The pork suit accuses the meatpackers of coordinating on price by publicly touting the need for herd cutbacks and laundering secret information through proprietary databases published by Agri Stats, which is also named as a defendant.

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