Jan. 3, 2024
AG Ferguson wins another $460,000 in anti-price-fixing case against chicken producers, resolves case against House of Raeford Farms
Two of 19 chicken producers remain in AG’s lawsuit over price-fixing conspiracy, trial set for October 2024
SEATTLE — Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced today that another chicken producer will pay the Attorney General’s Office as a result of his price-fixing lawsuit on chicken products. House of Raeford Farms will pay $460,000 to resolve legal claims against it.
This resolution leaves only two of the 19 companies named in the antitrust lawsuit facing an October 2024 trial in King County Superior Court. Sanderson Farms and Wayne Farms, named separately in the original lawsuit, merged after the Attorney General’s Office filed the lawsuit. House of Raeford controls a single-digit percentage of the national market share for chicken.
The Attorney General’s Office asserts House of Raeford Farms and the other chicken producers drove up the price of chicken starting in at least 2008, causing consumers to overpay by millions of dollars. The lawsuit asserts a widespread illegal conspiracy to inflate and manipulate prices, rig contract bids, illegally exchange information and coordinate industry supply reductions to maximize profits.
“As a result of corporate greed and illegal price-fixing, Washingtonians paid more for chicken without realizing it,” Ferguson said. “We are holding accountable those responsible, and getting money back to Washington families who were most harmed. We will continue to serve as a force for economic justice for Washingtonians.”
The $35.5 million recovered from the first 15 conspirators is already on its way to Washingtonians. After Ferguson’s lawsuit against all remaining co-conspirators is complete, the Attorney General’s Office will decide where to allocate the recoveries — prioritizing consumer restitution, cost and fee recovery and supporting future enforcement efforts. If the case against the last two companies — Foster Farms and Wayne-Sanderson Farms — is resolved at trial, the judge will direct how those funds are used.
All of the companies that signed resolutions so far will cooperate with the Attorney General’s Office to produce information and documentation relevant to the case against the other co-conspirators. Moreover, the companies entered into legally binding agreements to conduct internal training and certify that they have corporate policies that ensure the companies follow state and federal antitrust laws. Under the terms of the consent decrees, if any of them engage in price-fixing or other anticompetitive conduct in the next five years, the Attorney General’s Office can go to court to seek civil penalties.
Tens of millions of dollars sent across Washington state
In December, Ferguson began mailing checks to Washingtonians as restitution from earlier resolutions with chicken and tuna companies. The Attorney General’s Office had $35.5 million from resolutions in the chicken producers lawsuit and $5.1 million from lawsuits in a similar price-fixing conspiracy among tuna producers to keep prices on consumers artificially high.
The $40.6 million in financial restitution will go to every Washington state household whose income is at or below 175% of the federal poverty level. Approximately 402,200 Washington households will receive checks. More than 1.2 million Washingtonians, or approximately 15% of the state population, reside in households receiving checks. As of the end of December, most of the checks went to those households.
Washingtonians who have not received a check but think they qualify should visit refundcheck.atg.wa.gov. They will have six months to complete a short claims form and get their share of the funds. If there are questions about eligibility or the claims process, individuals can call (866) 601-1516 or send an email to [email protected].
The broiler chicken lawsuits
The 19 broiler chicken producers named in Ferguson’s 2021 lawsuit account for approximately 95 percent of the “broiler” chickens sold in the United States — a term for virtually all chicken produced for consumption. Broiler chickens are used for everything from chicken breasts consumers purchase at the grocery store, to chicken nuggets and chicken sandwiches individuals buy at fast food restaurants.
The Attorney General’s Office investigation found a coordinated, industry-wide effort to restrain production through the exchange of competitively sensitive information, signals during investor calls and direct coordination between players in the industry. Ferguson asserts their conduct violated Washington state antitrust laws.
A trial against the remaining co-conspirators, Foster Farms and Wayne-Sanderson Farms, is scheduled for October 2024. Foster Farms has a large production facility inside Washington state and the Attorney General’s Office estimates that it maintains a significant market share in Washington state. The Wayne-Sanderson Farms merger increased their respective market shares.
Assistant Attorneys General Travis Kennedy, Christina Black, Brooke Howlett Lovrovich, Holly Williams, Tyler Arnold, Susana Croke, Rose Duffy and Lucy Wolf; paralegals Tracy Jacoby, Kimberly Hitchcock, Michelle Oliver and Kate Iiams; and legal assistants Grace Monastrial, Keriann Snider and Debbie Chase from the Attorney General’s Antitrust Division are handling the case for Washington.