Smithfield Foods to pay $83 million to settle pork price-fixing claims

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(Reuters) – Smithfield Foods Inc said on Wednesday it will pay $83 million to settle litigation that accused several companies of conspiring to limit supply in the $20 billion-a-year U.S. pork market to inflate prices and their own profits.

The settlement with Smithfield resolves antitrust claims by “direct” purchasers such as Maplevale Farms that accused the nation’s largest pork companies of having fixed prices beginning in 2009.

Smithfield’s settlement requires approval by Chief Judge John Tunheim of the U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.

Keira Lombardo, Smithfield’s chief administrative officer, said the settlement eliminates a “substantial portion” of the Smithfield, Virginia-based company’s exposure in the litigation.

She also said Smithfield denied liability in agreeing to settle, and believed its conduct was always lawful.

Smithfield’s parent WH GroupĀ Ltd says it is the world’s largest pork producer.

Clifford Pearson, a lawyer for the direct purchasers, declined to comment.



By Jonathan Stempel / Reuters

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