AAI Annual Private Antitrust Enforcement Conference

Partner Gary I. Smith Jr. moderated a panel titled, "Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner: A Spotlight on Antitrust in the Protein Industry," during the American Antitrust Institute's 15th Annual Private Antitrust Enforcement Conference on November 10th.

Since 2016, meat processors in the beef, chicken, pork, and turkey industries have been skewered by antitrust litigation arising out of alleged collusion, including alleged anticompetitive information sharing. Years after the private plaintiffs’ suits were first filed, the Department of Justice eventually brought a criminal action in the broiler chicken industry, though most industry suits involve private plaintiffs alone. In many of these actions, direct and indirect purchasers seek overcharge damages, while in others, farmers or processing plant workers seek recompense for alleged pay suppression. These cases have drawn substantial attention from direct action or “opt out” plaintiffs including major grocery store chains, quick service food restaurants, and retail giants like Walmart.

The panel discussed similarities and differences among the various cases as well as their broader implications for private enforcement. This includes a renewed focus on information sharing among horizontal competitors in the era of big data as either standalone Section 1 violations or as facilitating practices for broader price or wage fixing conspiracies.