MINNEAPOLIS – Smithfield Foods, Inc. will pay $83 million to settle a court case that involved direct-purchaser class claims involving multiple companies in the pork industry. Food distributor Maplevale Farms filed the original antitrust suit in 2016 over allegations of price fixing throughout the meat industry. Approval for the settlement is required by the US District Court of Minneapolis and Chief Judge John Tunheim.
“This settlement eliminates a substantial portion of our exposure in the antitrust litigation for an amount that we believe is in the best interests of our company, as well as our employees, customers and consumers,” said Keira Lombardo, chief administrative officer for Smithfield Foods. “It significantly reduces the distraction, expense, exposure and inconvenience of protracted litigation, and it allows us to focus on executing the long-term strategy of our business.”
Smithfield also said it denied liability in agreeing to the settlement and believed its conduct was lawful. The company expects the court to grant final approval of the settlement but there is no guarantee that the court will approve the terms of the agreement.
Other defendants in the litigation include Hormel Foods Corp., JBS USA, Tyson Foods, Inc. and data provider Agri Stats. There is still ongoing litigation regarding commercial and other indirect pork purchasers.
In the spring, similar settlements were adopted for other companies over pork and poultry price-fixing allegations with wholesalers and other consumer class action lawsuits.