Cattle feeders representing all cash sellers of fed cattle to ConAgra since May
1998 filed their Motion and Evidence requesting certification of their
lawsuit as a class action on December 16, 2002. The filings were made
in US District Court in Omaha by Dave Domina and Nora Kane of Domina Law
pc, Omaha NE, and Herbert Schwartz of the Bailey Williams Law Firm, Houston
TX, and Joe Whatley and Peter Burke of Whatley Drake, Birmingham AL.
Republican Valley Feeders, Inc. of Oxford NE and Gordon Reisinger of Red
Oak IA are the class representatives against ConAgra Foods, Inc., and
ConAgra Red Meats, the defendants. ConAgra has sold its meat company since
the suit was filed in May 2002. It has retained a 46% ownership interest
in the new owner, known as Swift, Inc.
The lawsuit alleges that ConAgra has used its market power as one of America’s
3 largest meat packers by owning, contracting or otherwise controlling
fed cattle long before their slaughter dates. The plaintiffs allege this
practice reduces demand for cattle in feedyards and downwardly depresses
cash price paid to cattle feeders. The suit charges that this practice
violates Section 192 of the Packers & Stockyards Act of 1921, an
antitrust statute designed to protect meat producers from anticompetitive actions
of slaughter companies.
Domina Law pc and Whatley Drake are involved in a similar suit against
IBP, inc. that has been certified as a nationwide class action for cash
sellers of fed cattle to IBP since February 1994. All 3 law firms in the
ConAgra case have filed a similar suit against Excel Corp, the slaughterhouse
subsidiary of Cargill, Inc.
IBP, now owned by Tyson Foods, Inc., ConAgra, now Swift, and Cargill’s
Excel slaughter an estimated 85% of all beef cattle slaughtered annually
in the US. IBP and Excel also have major Canadian slaughter interests.
The suits seek to restore competition to markets by ending the packer practice
of using “captive supplies” to reduce activity in cash markets.
All three suits, including the IBP case, are assigned to Hon Lyle E Strom,
Senior U S District Judge, of Omaha. Judge Strom’s decision to certify
a national class against IBP has been allowed to stand by the U S Court
of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
Deposition testimony has been taken from ConAgra and Excel executives
by Dave Domina. The ConAgra deposition was submitted to the Court to support
the plaintiffs’ December 17, 2002 class action filing.