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Tyson Foods and Pilgrim's Pride Settle Price-Fixing Litigation Over Chicken Prices

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By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - Pilgrim’s Pride Corp and Tyson Foods Inc said on Monday they have settled price-fixing litigation by a group of poultry buyers that accused them of violating U.S. antitrust law by conspiring to inflate chicken prices.

Pilgrim’s Pride, owned mainly by Brazil’s JBS SA, will pay $75 million to settle claims by purchasers that bought chickens directly from the company. The size of Tyson’s settlement with the same purchasers was not disclosed.

Neither company admitted liability, and both said settling was in their best interests.

Both settlements require approval by a federal judge in Chicago.

Neither affects claims by “indirect” purchasers, which include restaurant and supermarket operators such as Chick-fil-A, Kroger Co and Target Inc as well as ordinary consumers.

They also do not affect claims against other defendants, such as Sanderson Farms Inc and Perdue Farms Inc.

Pilgrim's settlement is the largest in more than four years of litigation by restaurants, supermarkets and food distributors over alleged price-fixing in the $65 billion chicken industry here.

A few smaller chicken producers previously reached similar settlements totaling $13 million.

Similar litigation has been pending in Minneapolis federal court accusing Tyson, another JBS unit and other pork producers of conspiring to inflate pork prices by limiting supply.

The Pilgrim’s settlement follows that company’s agreement in October to pay a $110.5 million fine to resolve a U.S. Department of Justice criminal price-fixing probe.

Last year, the Justice Department also filed criminal price-fixing and bid-rigging charges here in Denver against 10 poultry industry executives. All have pleaded not guilty.

The case is In re Broiler Chicken Antitrust Litigation, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, No. 16-08637.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Richard Pullin.

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