DOJ files lawsuit against Cargill, Sanderson and Wayne Farms
he Department of Justice has filed a civil antitrust lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland against a data consulting firm and its president, as well as three poultry processors, to end a long-running conspiracy to exchange information on wages and benefits for poultry processing plant workers and collaborate with competitors on compensation decisions in violation of the Sherman Act.
The lawsuit also alleges that two of the poultry processors violated the Packers and Stockyards Act by engaging in deceptive practices associated with the “tournament system,” which pits chicken farmers against each other to determine their remuneration.
At the same time, the department filed proposed consent decrees with defendants Webber, Meng, Sahl and Company (WMS) and its chairman, G. Jonathan Meng, as well as Cargill Inc., Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation, Sanderson Farms Inc. .and Wayne Farms LLC.
“Through a brazen system of wage and benefit information exchange, these poultry processors have stifled competition and hurt a generation of factory workers who face demanding and sometimes dangerous conditions for make a living,” said Senior Assistant Deputy Attorney General Doha Mekki of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Department. Division. “Today’s action puts businesses and individuals on notice: The Antitrust Division will use all of its available legal authorities to combat anti-competitive behavior that harms American consumers, workers, farmers and other producers.”
If approved by the court, the proposed consent decree with data consulting firm WMS would prohibit WMS from providing surveys or any other services that facilitate the sharing of competitively sensitive information in any which sector.
Jonathan Meng, president of WMS, is also subject to the terms of the individual consent decree.
The proposed consent decree with defendant poultry processors Cargill, Sanderson Farms and Wayne Farms would prohibit them from sharing competitively sensitive information about workers’ compensation at poultry processing plants.