By JACK WEATHERLY
Sanderson Farms Inc. and 14 other poultry producers have been sued in federal court for alleged price-fixing.
The producers control 90 percent of the nation’s broiler output, valued at $30 billion annually, according to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Broilers constitute 98 percent of the chicken meat in the country.
Because of the alleged collusion starting as early as 2008 and continuing to the present, the producers pushed prices up by 50 percent by “coordinating” and “limiting” their output, the suit contends.
Plaintiffs seek an injunction to halt such practices and also a jury trial and triple the actual damages they have sustained.
They charge that the defendants have violated the Sherman Antitrust Act. The different classes sought in the suit include one for residents “who indirectly bought broilers from defendants or co-conspirators” in 28 states, including Mississippi.
Agri Stats Inc. “acted as an agent and/or co-conspirator of [the defendants] by facilitating the exchange of confidential, proprietary, and competitively sensitive data among [the defendants] and their co-conspirators.”
Plaintiffs are Don Chavas Mexican Restaurant Inc. and others.
The other defendants are Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms, Wayne Farms, Koch Foods, JCG Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., Koch Foods, Mountainaire Farms, Peco Foods, Foster Farms, House of Raeford Farms, Fieldale Farms, George’s Farms and O.K. Foods.
Sanderson, which is based in Laurel, filed an 8-K form on Sept. 6 with the Securities and Exchange Commission stating that “the lawsuit is in its earliest stage and we intend to defend it vigorously.”
Chief Financial Officer Mike Cockrell said in an e-mail Monday that Sanderson has “no further comment at this time.”
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