Justice Department Files Proposed Amended Complaint and Consent Decree with Fourth Poultry Processor, Further Addressing Long-Running Conspiracy to Suppress Workers’ Compensation
Decree Prohibits the Exchange of Compensation Information, Requires Processor to Pay Restitution, and Subjects Settling Poultry Processor to Antitrust Compliance Monitor
The Department of Justice filed a proposed amended complaint and consent decree today in the District of Maryland with George’s Inc. and George’s Foods LLC (George’s) that would resolve claims that George’s conspired with other poultry processors for years to suppress workers’ wages by exchanging compensation information. George’s provided significant and voluntary cooperation to the Justice Department's investigation. The department previously reached proposed consent decrees in this matter with poultry processors Cargill, Sanderson Farms, and Wayne Farms, as well as with a data consultant, Webber, Meng, Sahl and Company, and its president, G. Jonathan Meng.
“Today’s action is another important milestone in the Justice Department’s efforts to hold poultry processors accountable for antitrust violations that harm workers,” said Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “The antitrust laws protect American workers from information exchanges, like these, that damage competition and the competitive process.”
Under the terms of the proposed settlement, George’s must cease sharing competitively sensitive information about poultry processing plant workers’ compensation. If approved by the court, the proposed settlement also:
- Imposes a court-appointed compliance monitor who, for the next seven years, will ensure George’s compliance with the terms of the proposed decree;
- Grants the court-appointed monitor authority to ensure George’s compliance with all federal antitrust laws as they relate to its poultry processing facilities, workers at its poultry processing plants, chicken growers, integrated poultry feed, hatcheries, transportation of poultry and poultry products, and the sale of poultry, and to submit regular reports on George’s antitrust compliance;
- Prohibits George’s from retaliating against any employee or third party for disclosing information to the monitor or to government authorities;
- Permits the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division to inspect George’s facilities and interview employees to ensure George’s compliance with the consent decree; and
- Commits George’s to pay $5.8 million in restitution for poultry processing plant workers who were harmed by the conspiracy.
These terms would expire seven years after the consent decree is approved by the court.
As required by the Tunney Act, the proposed consent decree, along with the competitive impact statement, will be published in the Federal Register. Any person may submit written comments concerning the proposed consent decree during a 60-day comment period to Chief, Civil Conduct Task Force, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice, 450 Fifth Street NW, Suite 8600, Washington, D.C. 20530. At the conclusion of the 60-day comment period, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland may enter the final judgment upon finding it is in the public interest.
Today’s actions are part of a broader investigation into anticompetitive labor market abuses in the poultry processing industry. Anyone with information about poultry industry collusion, competitors sharing non-public compensation information, anticompetitive conduct violations against workers, or any other violations of the antitrust laws is encouraged to contact the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at 1-888-647-3258 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The division will forward complaints about the settling processor defendants to the court-appointed antitrust monitor, where appropriate. Information about anticompetitive practices in livestock and poultry markets can also be submitted to the USDA and Justice Department's Agricultural Markets Enforcement Partnership at www.farmerfairness.gov.
The Justice Department thanks the U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Inspector General for its assistance with this investigation.