Suits filed against beef packers for price manipulation

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gavel and scales of justice
(Farm and Dairy file photo)

SALEM, Ohio  — There are multiple suits being filed against Tyson Foods Inc., JBS S.A., Cargill Inc., and National Beef Packing Company LLC, AgriStats, and certain of their affiliates, alleging price manipulation.

Attorneys have filed class action lawsuits in federal district courts in Chicago and Minnesota on behalf of R-CALF USA and cattle-feeding ranchers from Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, and Wyoming, and from Nevada and Wisconsin.

The R-CALF case in Chicago was filed by Scott+Scott Attorneys at Law LLP, along with Cafferty Clobes Meriwether and Sprengel LLP; and the Minnesota case was filed by Hagens Berman, Sobol and Shapiro LLP.

The suits alleges the nation’s four largest beef packers violated U.S. antitrust laws, the Packers and Stockyards Act, and the Commodity Exchange Act by depressing the prices paid to farmers.

Allegation

The similar arguments allege that from at least Jan. 1, 2015, through the present, the packers conspired to depress the price of fed cattle they purchased, thereby inflating their own margins and profits.

The class action lawsuit seeks to recover the losses suffered by two classes believed harmed by the companies alleged conduct.

The first class includes cattle producers who sold fed cattle to any one of the Big 4 from January 2015 to the present.

The second class consists of traders who transacted live cattle futures or options contracts on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange from January 2015 to the present.

The plaintiffs claim these alleged practices depressed fed cattle prices by an average of 7.9% since January 2015.

Response

In a prepared statement, Cargill said, “For many years, Cargill has served as a trusted partner to American cattle ranchers, committed to supporting their family farms and livelihoods. We believe the claims lack merit, and we are confident in our efforts to maintain market integrity and conduct ethical business.”

Similarly, a Tyson statement said, “We’re disappointed this baseless case was filed. As with similar lawsuits concerning chicken and pork, there’s simply no merit to the allegations that Tyson colluded with competitors.

“This complaint is nothing more than another transparent and opportunistic attempt by attorneys to make money for themselves at the expense of consumers.

“…Contrary to the assertions in this lawsuit, Tyson wants its suppliers to succeed. Tyson will vigorously defend itself and its proud heritage of supporting America’s farmers and ranchers.”

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