Cattle Trade Organization and Producers Sue Major Beef Packing Plants Alleging Conspiracy

April 24, 2019 | Kitt Tovar

On April 23, 2019, R-CALF and others filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of Illinois claiming several large packing companies “conspire[ed] to suppress the price of fed cattle they purchased in the United States from at least January 1, 2015 through the present.” The plaintiffs, which consist of Ranchers Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF) and several cattle ranchers, seek class action status, injunctive relief, punitive and triple damages, as well as attorney fees.

The plaintiffs allege in their complaint that the packing defendants conspired to suppress fed cattle prices and that this conspiracy caused the 2015 beef price collapse and the low prices that followed. The plaintiffs claim this was done by collectively reducing slaughter numbers and limiting the number of cattle purchased in order to create an excess amount of cattle. The defendants in the lawsuit include Tyson, JBS, Cargill, Swift Beef Company, their subsidiaries, and “John Doe Defendants” which include presently unknown firms which participated in the alleged manipulation. Specific claims for relief include:

  • Market Allocation and Price Fixing in Violation of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. section 1
  • Violations of the Packers and Stockyards Act, 7 U.S.C. section 192 and 209
  • Unjust Enrichment
  • Manipulation in Violation of the Commodities Exchange Act, 7 U.S.C. sections 1, et seq.
  • Manipulative and Deceptive Device in Violation of the CEA and the CFTC Regulation, 17 C.F.R. section 180.1(A)
  • Principal-Agent Liability
  • Aiding and Abetting

Both Cargill and Tyson have issued statements denying the allegations. There has been no answer to the complaint at this time.

We will keep you posted.