Dean Foods antitrust case moves forward

by Keith Nunes
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MILWAUKEE — The U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust case against Dean Foods Co. may go forward, according to the ruling of J.P. Stadtmueller, U.S. District Court Judge for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Dean Foods had filed a motion to dismiss the case.

In the decision, Judge Stadtmueller criticized the Department of Justice’s case, saying it lacked “specificity in content associated with the underlying complaint.” But the judge found the shortcomings to not be sufficient enough to warrant dismissal.

On Jan. 22, the D.O.J., in conjunction with several states attorneys general filed a lawsuit seeking to require Dean Foods to sell the dairy processing plants it acquired from Foremost Farms, and the lawsuit would require Dean Foods to notify the D.O.J. at least 30 days prior to any future acquisition involving a milk processing operation.

The D.O.J. said the merger eliminated competition between the two companies in the sale of milk to schools, grocery stores, convenience stores and other retailers in Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Following the judge’s denial of Dean Foods’ motion to dismiss, the company said, “We believe our acquisition of Foremost Farms is promoting competition in the region and has already produced benefits for consumers and farmers. We continue to believe that the government's complaint against us is unfounded.

“In a motion to dismiss, the court views everything in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, which is a high bar for any defendant. However, we are encouraged by the court’s recognition of the ‘shortcomings’ of the plaintiffs' pleadings, which the court called ‘not well structured,’ and we look forward to the discovery process.”

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