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Fieldale Farms close to finalizing $2.25 million settlement in alleged price-fixing case
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The plaintiffs in a federal antitrust class-action lawsuit against multiple poultry corporations sought the final approval of a $2.25 million settlement with Fieldale Farms, according to Oct. 29 court filings.

The Direct Purchaser Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in September 2016 against corporations such as Tyson Foods, Koch Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride, Perdue, Sanderson Farms, Mar-Jac and others.

Their claim was that the defendants allegedly “combined and conspired to fix, raise, elevate, maintain, or stabilize prices of broilers sold in the U.S.”

Broilers are chickens raised for meat and are slaughtered before they are 13 weeks old.

The allegation was that the defendants did this through “coordinated supply restrictions, sharing competitively sensitive price and production information, and fixing the Georgia Dock Broiler price index.”

The price index data from 2000-2016 can be found on the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s website.

Fieldale Farms and the plaintiffs entered a settlement agreement in July 27, 2017, and the corporation paid it into an interest-bearing escrow account around Aug. 28, 2017, according to court documents.

In the memorandum concerning the settlement’s final approval, Fieldale Farms is reported as one of the smallest broiler market shares of all the defendants. The settlement also requires Fieldale Farms to make current or former employees available for interviews and depositions as well as other documents for the plaintiffs’ continued prosecution.

After sending out thousands of notice forms, posting notices in industry publications, creating a website and toll-free call-in number, there were 109,695 potential class members. Only 43 of those sent opt-out requests.

According to the memorandum, the settlement agreement was reached before the U.S. District Court in Illinois ruled on the motions to dismiss.

“In fact, Fieldale Farms argued that their antibiotic free broilers were much more akin to the halal, kosher, free range, and organic broilers not included in the (Direct Purchaser Plaintiffs’) proposed class,” according to the memorandum. “Although rejected in the order on the motions to dismiss, the court cautioned that the argument could prevail at a later stage in the litigation. Because the settlement was negotiated before the court ruled on Fieldale Farm’s motion to dismiss, the (Direct Purchaser Plaintiffs) properly took into account the risk of that argument prevailing at the motion to dismiss stage or later — which likely would eliminate most or all of the claims against Fieldale Farms.”

The memorandum asked the court to grant final approval of the settlement.

Attorneys for neither side returned calls for comment from The Times.