$42 million allocated to restaurants claiming high pork prices

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Restaurants that purchased pork products from Smithfield Foods between January 1, 2009 and April 19, 2022, may be eligible for a share of the $42 million the seller agreed to pay to settle price-fixing allegations, according to a court-approved announcement.

The notice was issued by representatives of a class of plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against Smithfield and other pork suppliers in the U.S. District Court serving the Minnesota area. The other defendants, including most of the restaurant industry’s largest pork purveyors, are not involved in the deal.

The court determined that Smithfield’s offer of settlement did not imply that the seller was guilty of the price-fixing allegations brought against him.

The group of plaintiffs stressed that the announcement of the pending compensation payment was made with the approval and encouragement of the court. Disclosure of the settlement is actually aimed at parties who prefer to withdraw from the settlement and take advantage of their chances at trial. Operators who don’t consider the $42 million to be fair have until September 3rd to send a mail rejecting the offer. They are also invited to express their objections.

Only plaintiffs located in these states are eligible for a portion of the settlement: Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina , North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Operators in the District of Columbia may also qualify.

The court has yet to approve the $42 million payment. It plans to hold evaluation hearings first, beginning October 22.

If the settlement is approved, the money will then be split among the plaintiffs who have hypothetically agreed to the settlement.

The call to withdraw and object to the settlement is the latest development in a controversy that has involved many of the industry’s largest meat suppliers, including Tyson Foods, JBS, Swift and Hormel.

The group was accused of collaborating to set and maintain wholesale prices for pork collected from food service customers. Such actions are violations of federal antitrust laws.

The operators that have been accused of the alleged prices are LongHorn SteakHouse, Erbert & Gerbert’s, Joe’s Steak and Leaf, and The Grady Corp. and others.

Similar actions targeting poultry providers are underway.

The price-fixing allegations surfaced when the pandemic was upending the restaurant supply chain. These disruptions helped accelerate wholesale food price inflation to its highest level in decades.

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