Mass trial in the US: “A fraudulent conspiracy”

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Legal basis in the notified lawsuit against Norwegian farmers is based on US anti-trust legislation.

On Wednesday, it became known that an American seafood importer is suing a number of Norwegian salmon producers for allegedly illegal price fixing.

SalmonBusiness has gained insight into the legal documents, which show that the lawsuit relies heavily on the EU Commission’s ongoing investigation into alleged price manipulation that was initiated by raids against several of the companies at the end of February this year.

Distortive
The mass lawsuit, which will be raised by a federal US court in Miami, Florida, is directed at the following companies:

Mowi ASA (formerly known as Marine Harvest ASA), Marine Harvest USA, LLC, Marine Harvest Canada, Inc., Ducktrap River of Maine LLC, Grieg Seafood ASA, Grieg Seafood BC Ltd., Bremnes Seashore AS, Ocean Quality AS, Ocean Quality North America Inc., Ocean Quality USA Inc., Ocean Quality Premium Brands, Inc., SalMar ASA, Leroy Seafood Group ASA, Leroy Seafood USA Inc., and Scottish Sea Farms Ltd.

The aforementioned companies are accused of having participated in anti-competitive activities in order to maintain and increase the prices for Norwegian salmon. This is supposed to have happened by having coordinated selling prices and exchanging commercially sensitive information, agreeing to buy products from competitors when they sell at lower prices and to have used a coordinated strategy to increase spot prices for farmed Norwegian salmon for the purpose of securing higher price levels for long-term contracts.

The plaintiff is the Euclid Fish Company, a company based in the small town of Mentor, a few miles northeast of Cleveland, Ohio. Euclid Fish Company distributes seafood in the American Midwest. The customer list includes restaurants, speciality shops, country clubs, hotels and casinos.

Read more:Who is the family-run company suing Norwegian salmon farmers in the US?

The plaintiff will represent all persons and legal entities in the United States who have directly purchased farmed salmon from the aforementioned companies as of 1 July 2015 and up to the present date.

News articles
The facts are largely based solely on information from the companies’ own websites, as well as a number of news articles from the three online newspapers Undercurrent News, IntraFish and (iLaks’ sister newspaper) SalmonBusiness.

Here, among other things, the price difference between Norwegian and Chilean salmon has been emphasised, as well as the radically increased price path and earnings per kilo for the aforementioned farmers over the past four years.

The fact that global supply growth has declined significantly over the same period has not been mentioned.

Deception Risk
Furthermore, it is emphasised that the industrial concentration, characterised by a few large companies, facilitates “collusion” and “competition-restricting practices”. It is the plaintiff’s intention to uncover “fraudulently hidden” anti-competitive behavior, and whether US buyers have paid artificially high prices for the salmon.

The mass trial is based on US anti-trust legislation. According to the court document, the Plaintiff believes that the alleged price manipulation has had a “direct, significant and predictable effect” on salmon trade in the United States.

SalmonBusiness has contacted all the defendants for comments on the lawsuit. Only Mowi and Grieg Seafood have so far answered our inquiries and have rejected all the charges.