According to a Complaint filed by a group of peanut farmers, the two leading peanut shelling companies conspired to fix prices of raw and harvested peanuts by underreporting their inventory to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in order to make the market appear to be oversupplied. The plaintiffs claim that Birdsong Corp. and Golden Peanut “together control 80-90% of the United States Peanut Market.” Peanuts are the twelfth most valuable cash crop grown in the United States, with a farm value averaging $1.1 to $1.4 billion U.S. dollars annually.
The farmers claim that representatives of the two defendant companies had ample opportunities to collude due to the close proximity of their facilities in several states as well as their common membership in numerous trade associations such as the American Peanut Shellers Association, the American Peanut Council, the Peanut and Tree Nut Processors Association, The Peanut Institute and the National Peanut Buying Points Association. The defendants sought to dismiss the complaint asserting, among other things, that low peanut prices were not caused by unlawful price fixing but were the result of natural market forces coupled with the effect of subsidies provided in the 2014 Farm Bill. However, Judge Jackson of the Eastern District of Virginia denied defendants’ motion stating that “the totality of the factual assertions within the Complaint give rise to the plausible inference of a price fixing conspiracy.” Thus, the litigation will continue and may go on “’till the cows come home.”
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About Stephen Doherty
Stephen Doherty is Senior Counsel in the Pennsylvania office of Faruqi & Faruqi, LLP. Mr. Doherty practices in the area of antitrust law and is significantly involved in prosecuting antitrust class actions on behalf of direct purchasers of brand name and generic drugs and charging pharmaceutical manufacturers with price fixing and with illegally blocking the market entry of less expensive competitors. Earlier in his career, Mr. Doherty litigated consumer fraud and employment discrimination cases in both state and federal courts in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He has served on numerous volunteer boards, including Gilda's Club of Delaware Valley and the BCBA Pro Bono Committee, has served as a volunteer instructor for VITA Education Services, and as a pro bono lawyer for the Consumer Bankruptcy Assistance Project.Mr. Doherty is a 1992 graduate of Temple University Law School, where he was senior staff for the Temple Law Review and received several academic awards and is the author of Joint Representation Conflicts of Interest: Toward A More Balanced Approach, 65 Temp. L. Rev. 561 (1992). Mr. Doherty is a 1988 graduate of Dickinson College (B.A., Anthropology and Latin American Studies).