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Agri Stats Must Face Price-Fixing Lawsuit, Judge Rules

 |  May 29, 2024

The U.S. District Judge John Tunheim ruled on Tuesday that Agri Stats, a data analytics and consulting firm, must face a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Justice Department and six states. The lawsuit accuses Agri Stats of participating in a price-fixing conspiracy with major chicken, pork and turkey processors.

Indiana-based Agri Stats had sought to dismiss the case, but Judge Tunheim denied this motion, stating that the government’s antitrust claims were sufficient to proceed for now. Agri Stats has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

The lawsuit, initiated last year by the Justice Department, along with California, Texas, North Carolina and other states, alleges that Agri Stats unlawfully collected and shared competitively sensitive information within the meat industry. According to Reuters, major meat processors used these reports to artificially inflate prices.

Judge Tunheim’s 24-page ruling highlighted that Agri Stats’ reports contained “detailed information about where the subscriber stands in comparison to the rest of the industry in terms of sales and live production.” This level of detail, the plaintiffs argue, facilitated coordination among meat processors to maintain high prices.

Read more: Former Novartis Executive Sentenced to Probation for Role in Generic Drug Price-Fixing Scheme

Agri Stats began offering benchmarking reports for the chicken industry in 1985 and later expanded to include turkey and pork data. However, the company ceased producing turkey and pork reports in 2019 and has stated it does not plan to resume these reports. The lawsuit seeks to prevent Agri Stats from continuing to issue its reports.

In a related legal matter, a U.S. judge in Chicago dismissed similar claims against Agri Stats in a private antitrust lawsuit last year. That lawsuit had been brought by restaurants, supermarkets, distributors and consumers. U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin ruled that the mere provision of a convenient form to transmit information did not constitute Agri Stats joining the alleged conspiracy.

Judge Tunheim made it clear in his order on Tuesday that he would not transfer the government’s case to Chicago and emphasized that he was not bound by Judge Durkin’s previous ruling.

Source: Reuters