What do Target, Walmart and Hooters have in common? They are among dozens of plaintiffs suing a small data analytics firm for allegedly working with meat producers to fix poultry and pork prices.
Agri Stats, an analytics firm that collects and sells data in the meat processing industry, allegedly used it’s proprietary data to facilitate price-fixing among major meat processors.
From the Wisconsin Law Journal:
Agri Stats — a widely utilized, privately-held data and analytics firm for the meat processing industry — has been named in more than 90 lawsuits since 2016, making it the second-most sued company in the industry over that time span (Tyson Foods is first). All the lawsuits accuse the company of facilitating anti-competitive behavior because, with the almost real-time data, meat processors can see what their counterparts are planning.
Most allegations are similar, even across industries. Meat producers “conspired and combined to fix, raise, maintain, and stabilize the price of” product, reads the first lawsuit, filed in 2016 on behalf of Maplevale Farms, a New York food service company.
Wholesale and retail price data from the USDA reflects a rise and stabilization in consumer prices since early 2008, when the conspiracy is alleged to have started affecting the market, particularly in pork.
After remaining relatively stable between 2000 and 2008, pork retail prices shot up almost 50% from January 2008 to a then-record high in September 2014. After that peak, retail prices remained high, always at least 25% higher than 2008 levels.
The numerous complaints allege Agri Stats, which saw its earnings nearly triple over about the scope of years highlighted in lawsuits, is part of the set-up.
“Agri Stats acted as an agent and/or co-conspirator of Defendants by facilitating the exchange of confidential, proprietary, and competitively sensitive data among Defendants and their co-conspirators,” according to Maplevale’s filing.