A PYMNTS Company

Sysco’s Meat Price-Fixing Settlement Enforceable, Federal Court Rules

 |  June 17, 2024

Sysco Corp. must adhere to a global settlement in meat price-fixing lawsuits despite objections from litigation funder Burford Capital, according to Bloomberg. On Friday, an Illinois federal judge determined that Sysco’s acceptance of a settlement deal with beef, pork and chicken producers is enforceable.

Judge Thomas M. Durkin ruled that although Sysco did not formally sign the agreement, the company had agreed to the fundamental aspects of the settlement through email communications and draft documents. “That is sufficient objective evidence of an agreement to enforce it,” Durkin wrote in his decision.

This ruling adds another layer to the ongoing legal battle involving Burford, Sysco and the meat producers accused of conspiring to inflate meat prices. Burford had provided Sysco with $140 million to pursue these antitrust cases. However, disputes arose last year when Burford judged the settlement amount as insufficient. Subsequently, Sysco agreed to transfer its claims to a Burford affiliate, a move opposed by other parties involved in the litigation, reported Bloomberg.

Read more: Judge Blocks Sysco’s Bid to Assign Price-Fixing Claims to Burford Capital

“It is concerning that the court has today opted to enforce a supposed agreement that the parties clearly never viewed as binding,” Burford spokesman David Helfenbein expressed in an email statement. “We think corporate America will be surprised to learn that emails from mid-level corporate functionaries can be sufficient to bind companies to substantial settlements in the absence of executed settlement agreements.”

In March, Durkin permitted Sysco to transfer its chicken price-fixing claims to Burford. However, earlier this month, a Minnesota federal judge denied a similar substitution concerning related beef and pork price-fixing cases.

In his Friday ruling, Durkin upheld a motion by Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, one of the chicken producers sued for price-fixing, to enforce the global settlement that encompasses the poultry, beef and pork cases.

Source: News Bloomberg Law