Salmon Producers Face Upstream Fight as Court Denies Motion to Dismiss


Four of the world’s largest salmon-farming companies, and several of their affiliates, must face allegations of price-fixing by a proposed class of direct purchasers, as the District Court for Southern District of Florida denied the defendants’ joint motion to dismiss the claims.  

The direct purchasers plaintiffs allege that the defendants engaged in a coordinated strategy to manipulate the NASDAQ Salmon Index, which serves as the benchmark for salmon prices worldwide. The Index is tied to the cash price of salmon in the spot market in Oslo, Norway, and sets a weekly average sales price using reports of transactions from an advisory panel of Norwegian salmon producers, on which defendants sat. According to plaintiffs, the defendants rigged the price of salmon on the Olso spot market using subsidiaries as buyers of large quantities of fish in sham transactions meant to create the appearance of greater consumer demand for salmon, to stabilize salmon prices at supracompetitive levels, and to influence the NASDAQ Salmon Index price. Plaintiffs supported these contentions with additional allegations of parallel price movement among competing salmon producers. The defendants continued to coordinate price increases, plaintiffs alleged, even despite economic conditions that would have normally led to price declines, such as the 2014 Russian ban on imports of Norwegian seafood. 

Beyond their allegations of parallel conduct, the plaintiffs identified specific interfirm communications evidencing cooperation among defendants, alleged mutual participation in trade associations, and detailed the ongoing investigations of substantially the same claims by the European Commission and the Department of Justice

On these facts, Judge Cecilia Altonaga held that the plaintiffs plausibly alleged a conspiracy among the salmon producers. The court also rejected defendants’ argument that the claims were time-barred, finding that the plaintiffs had sufficiently alleged that the statute of limitations was tolled by the defendants’ “affirmative efforts to conceal and cover up their anticompetitive conspiracy” and that, in any case, the plaintiffs had alleged continuing violations through the present.

The case is In re Farm-Raised Salmon & Salmon Prods. Antitrust Litigation, No. 19-21551, in the Southern District of Florida.
 

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About Raymond N. Barto

Raymond N. Barto's practice is focused on antitrust litigation. Ray is a senior associate in the firm's New York office.Prior to joining F&F, Ray was an associate at a prominent New York City law firm where he represented consumers, shareholders, and employees in class action cases that involved consumer fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and ERISA.While at Brooklyn Law School, Ray served as an Articles Editor for the Brooklyn Law Review. As well, Ray served as an intern to the Honorable Judge William Pauley III of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York; the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York; the litigation department for Marsh & McLennan Companies; and the Kings County District Attorney's Office.

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