OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – JBS agreed to pay $20 million to settle a lawsuit with consumers alleging the giant meat producer conspired with other meat companies to raise pork prices.
The latest deal on the meat industry will likely reinforce concerns raised by the White House, members of Congress and trade groups about how a lack of competition in the industry is affecting prices. .
A federal judge in Minnesota approved the settlement of the price-fixing case last week. But the judge also ruled that nearly $7 million of the settlement would go to the plaintiffs’ attorneys for their work on the case.
The pork case is one of those price fixing cases litigation make their way through the courts. Meat producers are also accused of exaggerating beef and chicken priceand several million dollar settlements were announced in those cases.
JBS previously agreed to pay restaurants and caterers $12.75 million as part of another settlement in this pork lawsuit, and Smithfield Foods agree to pay two different groups of buyers for $83 million and $42 million in two different settlements in this case.
Despite the settlements, meat companies defended their pricing methods.
Officials at the Brazilian company’s US headquarters in Greeley, Colorado, did not immediately respond to questions about the latest deal on Monday, but JBS did not admit any wrongdoing. as part of the agreement.
Lead attorneys for the plaintiffs said it was unclear how much individual consumers who purchased pork between 2009 and last year could receive, in part because money from additional payments could be added to the fund. before any payment is sent out. More details about the settlement Online.
Pork lawsuits are still pending against other major producers including Hormel, Tyson Foods and database company Agri Stats, which they allegedly used to share confidential information about pricing, capacity and demand. JBS has agreed to cooperate with cases against other companies as part of the settlement.
The lawsuit alleges that the major meat processors, who together control more than 70 percent of the nation’s pork production, cooperated to limit the pig supply and raise prices.
The White House, several agricultural trade groups, and some prominent members of Congress all have question industry pricing practices although meat producers argue that factors of supply and demand, not anticompetitive behavior, drive prices.
The Justice Department has been looking into allegations of price fixing in the industry since at least 2020, but it did not provide an update on its investigation.
The Biden administration has announced several efforts to increase competition in the meat industry to help lower prices, including a $1 billion program to help establish and expand independent slaughterhouse. And the White House tweaked the administrative rules to make it easier to farmers and ranchers to report concerns or lawsuits about anticompetitive behavior.
The judge who approved the settlement last Wednesday said the awarding of rewards to attorneys related to 33% of the proceeds, as he did here, is consistent with similar class-action lawsuits. other self.
Register Fortune feature email list so you don’t miss our biggest features, exclusive interviews and surveys.