Tyson Foods, the nation’s largest meat supplier, said it will pay more than $200 million to settle a class-action suit that alleged price-fixing among chicken producers, saying the agreement is in the best interests of the company and its stakeholders.
Tyson on Wednesday informed its shareholders of the settlement, which is pending court approval.
The Springdale, Arkansas-based company agreed to the $221.5 million deal after class-action claims accused the chicken industry of purposely inflating the price of chickens sold for meat for at least eight years, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Thursday.
Walmart and Chick-fil-A are among the major grocery stores and restaurants that joined the complaint that said they had spent billions on overpriced chicken. Producers denied the price-fixing allegations.
“We do not admit any liability as part of the settlements but believe the resolution of these cases is in the best interests of our company and our shareholders,” Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson said in an email.
Mickelson declined to comment on why Tyson settled when other chicken producers have not.
According to documents filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in 2016, the nation’s dominant chicken producers, including Tyson, cut supply to increase prices and conspired to manipulate prices on the now-defunct Georgia Dock chicken index.
The U.S. Department of Justice last year opened a criminal investigation into the price-fixing claims and indicted 10 current and former food company executives and employees accused of fixing prices from at least 2012 to early 2019. One of those indicted is Timothy Mulrenin, a former Tyson sales executive.
After discovering some of its employees were implicated, Tyson requested and was granted leniency in exchange for aiding with the Justice Department probe.