(Reuters) – JBS SA agreed to pay $ 52.5 million to settle lawsuits accusing meat packaging companies of conspiring to limit supply in the US beef market by $ 63 billion a year to raise prices and increase profits
The preliminary settlement between the Brazilian company and its US entities with so-called direct buyers was announced on Tuesday and is the first in nationwide antitrust disputes over fixing beef prices.
, referring to JBS's $ 24.5 million settlement in 2020 for pricing requirements from pork buyers.
In a statement, JBS stated that it did not admit liability but that the settlement was in its best interest. It also said it would defend itself against claims for fixing beef prices from other plaintiffs.
The agreement requires the approval of Chief Justice John Tunheim at the Federal Court of Minneapolis. Other defendants include Cargill Inc., National Beef Packing Co. and Tyson Foods Inc.
JBS joined a month after President Joe Biden announced a plan for new rules to strengthen competition and stop "exploitation" in the meat sector.
In their lawsuit, direct buyers accused the defendants, who controlled 80% of the US supply of fresh and frozen beef, having conspired since 2015 to reduce slaughter volumes, which created a deficit that smaller companies could not make up.