Tyson Foods Inc.
said it has agreed to pay $221.5 million to settle with plaintiff groups of poultry buyers that sued it for price-fixing claims, helping resolve a four-year legal battle over alleged collusion in the $65 billion chicken industry.
Restaurant chains, supermarket operators and food distributors have accused Tyson, the largest U.S. meat company by sales and the nation’s top chicken supplier, and other major chicken companies of coordinating production and pricing to boost prices for staples such as chicken breasts, tenders and wings. Chicken suppliers have pushed back in court, pointing to economic factors they said drove poultry prices.
Tyson said it reached the settlement with plaintiffs including direct purchasers, commercial and institutional indirect purchasers and end-user consumers. It didn’t admit any liability as part of the settlements and said the settlement is subject to court approval.
Tyson said “it believes that the settlements were in the best interests of the company and its shareholders in order to avoid the uncertainty, risk, expense and distraction of protracted litigation.”
The Tyson settlement doesn’t cover lawsuits filed separately by individual plaintiffs. Tyson,
Pilgrim’s Pride Corp.
and other U.S. chicken suppliers still face continuing lawsuits from some of their top customers, including chicken-sandwich company Chick-fil-A Inc., supermarket operators
, and food-service distributors
US Foods Holding Corp.
Tyson last week notified a court that it had reached a deal with the direct poultry buyers without disclosing the amount. Pilgrim’s, the second-largest U.S. poultry processor by sales, said it agreed to pay $75 million to settle some price-fixing claims. On Wednesday, Tyson said it would book the $221.5 million settlement with the plaintiff classes in its first-quarter financial results.
Antitrust pressure has grown on the U.S. meat industry, which is dominated by a handful of major meatpackers after decades of consolidation. The Justice Department last year subpoenaed major beef processors, seeking information on their buying practices.
Write to Dave Sebastian at [email protected]
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Appeared in the January 21, 2021, print edition as ‘Tyson to Settle Further Price-Fixing Claims.’