July 26, 2022
Plaintiffs' attorneys in major US pork price-fixing case receive US$34 million in legal fees
A federal judge in Minnesota state, US has approved a nearly US$34 million legal-fee award for plaintiffs' attorneys representing food distributors who claimed that major pork producers coluded for more than ten years to fix and raise prices of pork in the country, Reuters reported.
US District Judge John Tunheim in Minneapolis granted fees to co-lead plaintiffs' firms Lockridge Grindal Nauen and Pearson, Simon & Warshaw for their work in obtaining more than US$101.8 million in settlements with Smithfield Foods., the nation's biggest pork processor, and JBS USA Food, which has offices in Virginia and Colorado, respectively.
The fee award, which represents about 33 percent of the settlement fund, was deemed "fair and reasonable" by Tunheim. There were no objections to either settlement, and the agreements call for both businesses to work together in an ongoing civil price-fixing lawsuit involving a number of unresolved defendants.
Tunheim said fee awards in antitrust actions also provide a public benefit, adding that society gains when those who break the rules promoting honest pricing and fair competition are forced to compensate harmed consumers in civil proceedings.
A Smithfield representative declined to comment, and a JBS representative did not right away answer a message requesting commentary.
In the settlements, Smithfield, which agreed to pay US$83 million, and JBS, which agreed to pay US$24 million, both denied responsibility.
Tyson Foods and Hormel Foods, two non-settling defendants, have also refuted the plaintiffs' allegations. Tyson declined to comment, and Hormel did not right away answer a message requesting comment.
In the pork price-fixing litigation, which started in 2018, the co-lead plaintiffs' attorneys for "direct" purchasers collaborated with 14 other firms.
The direct-purchase plaintiffs are Ferraro Foods. in New Jersey, John Gross and Company in Pennsylvania, and Maplevale Farms of New York.
In a court document, Bruckner stated that as of February, his company had devoted nearly 25,000 hours to the litigation.
In a related lawsuit brought by commercial consumers, including bakeries, restaurants, and delis, Smithfield agreed to pay US$42 million in April to resolve claims of price-fixing in the pork industry. The commercial plaintiffs are represented by co-lead counsel from the law firms of Larson King and Cuneo Gilbert & LaDuca.