Plaintiff state filed a lawsuit against 19 chicken producers accusing them of a wide-ranging illegal conspiracy to inflate and manipulate prices, rig contract bids and coordinate industry supply reductions to maximize profits. The defendants account for approximately 95 percent of the broiler chickens sold in the United States. The complaint asserts their conduct violates the Washington Consumer Protection Act and Washington antitrust laws. The complaint seeks injunctive relief as well as restitution and civil penalties.
According to the complaint, the companies coordinated to reduce production during 2008-2009 and 2011-2012, resulting in significant production cuts and higher prices. This effort was conducted through the exchange of competitively sensitive information, signals during investor calls and direct coordination between players in the industry.
The state also sued an industry data reporting service accused of assisting in the conspiracy, alleging that the company purported to provide data anonymously, but knowingly presented the companies’ data in a way that made them easy to identify. This facilitated an exchange fo sensitive business information about pricing, future production, profitability and costs.
Executives from a number of chicken companies had been charged criminally by USDOJ.
There have been 14 settlement agreements with defendants, totaling $35 million:
The 14 resolutions include:
- Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. for $11,000,000;
- Tyson Foods for $10,500,000;
- Perdue Farms, Inc. for $6,500,000;
- Koch Foods Inc. for $1,400,000;
- Peco Foods, Inc. for $800,000;
- Mountaire Farms, Inc. for $775,000;
- George’s, Inc. for $750,000;
- Mar Jac Poultry for $725,000;
- Amick Farms, LLC for $600,000;
- Fieldale Farms Corp. For $475,000;
- Simmons Foods, Inc. for $425,000;
- Case Foods, Inc. for $395,000;
- O.K. Foods, Inc. for $375,000; and
- Harrison Poultry, Inc. for $290,000.