(Reuters) – Smithfield Foods Inc. has agreed to pay $75 million to settle a consumer lawsuit that accused the meat producer and several competitors of conspiring to raise prices in the U.S. pork market by $20 billion a year by limit supply.
A preliminary settlement in the antitrust case was filed Tuesday night in federal court in Minneapolis and requires approval by U.S. District Judge John Tunheim.
The settlement follows the judge’s Sept. 14 approval of a similar $20 million settlement between Consumers and JBS, one of Smithfield’s biggest rivals.
A spokesman for Smithfield said the company denied liability when it agreed to settle, and that the agreement reduces the distraction, risk and cost of protracted litigation.
He also said the agreement eliminates a “substantial portion”; of Smithfield’s remaining liability in the nationwide case.
Based in Smithfield, Virginia, the company is a unit of Hong Kong-listed WH Group.
Several companies have faced lawsuits in Minneapolis and Chicago, accusing them of raising the prices of beef and chicken.
Smithfield previously reached settlements of $83 million with so-called “direct” buyers such as Maplevale Farms and $42 million with commercial buyers, a group that includes restaurants.
Some of the other defendants are Hormel Foods Corp., Tyson Foods Inc. and data provider Agri Stats Inc.
The Biden administration has announced plans to boost competition in the meat sector, amid concerns that some meatpackers could dictate prices and add to inflationary pressures.