August 14, 2020

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Atlantic Salmon Producers Netted by DOJ

This month, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) opened a criminal investigation into collusive behavior among some of the largest producers of Atlantic salmon.  This inquiry follows the DOJ’s June announcement of its separate investigation into the chicken industry.

Atlantic salmon producers implicated by the investigation include Grieg Seafood, SalMar, Leroy Seafood Group, and Mowi.  The launch of the U.S. inquiry comes on the heels of the European Commission’s (EC) announcement of an investigation into the Atlantic salmon industry following a series of raids at the facilities of several prominent producers. The EC stated it had “concerns that the inspected companies may have violated E.U. antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices.”

These same salmon producers are defending class action complaints–one filed in the Southern District of Florida and another in the District of Maine—by commercial and institutional purchasers (i.e., restaurants) claiming they were charged artificially inflated prices for salmon.

​While the DOJ and EC investigations are in their early stages, the class action complaints provide additional color.  Plaintiffs in In Re Farm-Raised Salmon and Salmon Products Antitrust Litigation, No. 1:19-cv-21551-CMA (S.D. Fla. Aug. 19, 2019) allege that the defendants engaged in “openly collusive behavior” in the coordinated use of subsidiaries to drive up the price of the Oslo, Norway spot market—“the most important benchmark for salmon prices across the globe”—as well as tacit agreements to cooperate rather than compete.

Salmon now marks the latest food in a long line of protein staples to become the subject of antitrust concerns.  Recent federal class action cases alleging price-fixing conspiracies involving producers of chicken, beef, pork, and tuna remain ongoing.

© 2020 Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod LLPNational Law Review, Volume IX, Number 332


About this Author

Lori Lustrin, Commercial Litigation Attorney, Bilzin Sumberg Law Firm

Lori is a general commercial litigator who focuses on complex class-action and plaintiff opt-out antitrust litigation in federal court. In addition to antitrust work, her class action experience includes defending clients in the consumer products, homebuilding, real estate investment, and food and beverage industries.

Lori has also taken an interest in the emerging area of healthcare antitrust litigation and she has authored several articles on the subject. In addition to her varied federal court work, Lori has substantial experience in complex business litigation...

Scott Wagner, Litigation Attorney, e-discovery, Bilzin Sumberg Law Firm

Scott N. Wagner is a Partner in Bilzin Sumberg's Litigation Group. His practice focuses on complex litigation, including antitrust and class actions. Scott has represented clients in federal multidistrict class actions, opt-out actions, multiple state class actions and international arbitrations, including those involving antitrust, unfair and deceptive trade practices, products liability and qui tam matters.

Benjamin Mitchel Litigation Attorney Bilzin Sumberg

Benjamin Mitchel is an Associate in Bilzin Sumberg's Litigation Practice Group. While Benjamin was working on his J.D. at the University of Florida Levin Collage of Law, he served as Judicial Intern at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida where he conducted legal research, prepared memoranda of law, and drafted Orders and Reports & Recommendations pertaining to a variety of criminal and civil cases. He also held leadership roles as President of the Pi Lambda Phi Fraternity, Director of Intramurals for the Intrafraternity Council for the University of Florida,...