Washington AG files lawsuit over ‘sweeping conspiracy’ involving chicken manufacturers
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Tuesday that his office has filed a lawsuit over what he alleges to be a “sweeping conspiracy” involving nearly 20 major chicken manufacturers.
Ferguson names 19 chicken producers in his lawsuit, claiming that they had inflated prices, “rigged contract bids,” and manufactured supply shortages. Those companies — which include Tyson Foods, Sanderson Farms, and Perdue Farms, among others — distribute an estimated 95% of the country’s so-called “broiler chickens,” used for chicken breasts at grocery stores, chicken nuggets, and sandwiches at fast food chains.
“If you’ve eaten chicken in the last decade, this conspiracy touched your wallet,” Ferguson said in a news release. “This conspiracy cost middle-class and low-income Washington families more money to put food on their table.”
“I will hold these companies accountable for the profits they illegally made off the backs of hardworking Washington families,” he added.
Ferguson’s allegations date back to 2008, claiming that the companies named in his lawsuit “coordinated to reduce production, … resulting in significant production cuts and higher prices.” That effort was said to have been managed “through press releases and investor calls,” as well as at investment bank conferences and trade meetings with senior executives in attendance.
Ferguson’s 96-page filing in King County Superior Court asks that “restitution” be paid to Washington consumers and businesses “to the maximum extent” allowed under state law. It also seeks additional civil penalties over the companies’ alleged violations.
If the companies are found to be in violation of Washington’s antitrust laws, they could each be subject to a maximum fine of $900,000, as well as $7,500 in civil penalties.