Smithfield to pay $75 million to settle U.S. pork market lawsuit

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Smithfield to pay $75 million to settle U.S. pork market lawsuit

Reuters-Smithfield Foods Inc agreed to pay $75 million for a lawsuit filed by consumers who accused the meat producer and several competitors of conspiring to increase prices in the $20 billion-a-year U.S. pork market.

A preliminary settlement is due to be filed with the federal court in Minneapolis on Tuesday night and requires approval from U.S. District Judge John Tunheim.

A similar $20 million settlement between consumers and JBS SA, one of Smithfield's largest rivals, was approved by the judge on Sept. 14.

Smithfield did not respond to requests for comment after market hours.

The Smithfield, Virginia-based company, a unit of WH Group Ltd, denied liability, but settled to avoid the uncertainty, risk and cost of litigation, settlement papers show.

Several companies have been accused of inflating beef and chicken prices because of lawsuits in Minneapolis and Chicago.

Smithfield previously reached settlements of $83 million with so-called direct purchasers such as Maplevale Farms and $42 million with commercial purchasers, a group that includes restaurants.

Some of the other defendants are Hormel Foods Corp, Tyson Foods Inc and data provider Agri Stats Inc.

Smithfield agreed to provide cooperation that the plaintiffs' lawyers said will strengthen their cases against the remaining defendants.

The Biden administration has announced plans to bolster competition in the meat sector, amid concerns that some meat packers could dictate prices and add to inflationary pressures.

The case is No. : Pork Antitrust Litigation, U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota.