Egg farmers settle case over price fixing for $25m

08-06-2010 | | |
Egg farmers settle case over price fixing for $25m

Law firm Hausfeld on behalf of direct purchasers of shell eggs and egg products in the US has agreed on a US$25 mln settlement in an antitrust class action on price fixing of eggs.

The settlement, entered into between the plaintiffs and 3 of the defendants – Land O’ Lakes, Moark, and Norco – is the first settlement in this case providing monetary compensation to class members.

The plaintiffs allege a near industry-wide, price-fixing conspiracy among egg farmers, which raised the price of shell eggs and egg products in violation of antitrust law.

In particular, the plaintiffs contend that numerous defendants conspired to restrict egg supply through cage space requirements, coordinated molting schedules and hen reductions, and exported eggs at a loss in order to reduce domestic supplies and raise prices.

Egg associations involved

According to the plaintiffs’ complaint, the conspiracy was coordinated through several egg trade associations including United Egg Producers and United States Egg Marketers.

Plaintiffs previously entered into a non-monetary settlement with Sparboe Farms, which provided documents and testimony that plaintiffs used in amending their claims.

The current settlement, which still needs to be approved by the court, would provide compensation to individuals and companies that directly purchased certain shell eggs and egg products from egg producers.

Cooperation agreed

In addition, the settling defendants have agreed to provide significant cooperation to the plaintiffs as they pursue their claims against the remaining, non-settling defendants, including Cal-Maine, Michael Foods, and Rose Acre Farms.

The settling defendants have agreed to provide information and documents that will include further details about meetings and discussions that occurred among the defendants with regard to price-fixing efforts.

“This is a significant settlement that, if approved, will provide considerable financial relief to the direct purchasers of shell eggs and egg products,” said Michael Hausfeld, one of the co-lead counsel in this case.

“The defendants have also agreed to provide cooperation in the form of documents and testimony that we believe will further enable us to pursue claims against the remaining defendants.”

Natalie Berkhout Freelance journalist