Pacific Seafood Off The Hook In Fishermen Antitrust Litigation
Commercial fishing vessel owners and fishermen have settled a $520 million claim for damages against Pacific Seafood Group just two months after Judge Owen M. Panner of the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon granted class certification in Whaley et al. v. Pacific Seafood Group et al.
Plaintiffs alleged that the defendants, Pacific Seafood Group and Ocean Gold Seafoods, Inc., fixed prices in buying fish, harming fishermen and consumers. Plaintiffs also alleged that Pacific Seafood, the largest seafood-buying company in the United States, either monopolized or attempted to monopolize west coast markets for Pacific seafood.
The settlement agreement does not require any damages to be paid or for Pacific Seafood to break up the company. Instead, Pacific Seafood has agreed to adopt a series of procompetitive measures designed to increase transparency, fairness, and, most of all, competition in the seafood markets. This series of procompetitive measures includes Pacific Seafood’s promise to end its relationship with co-defendant Ocean Gold Seafoods in 2016.
Although nothing in the settlement agreement would prevent Pacific Seafood Group from entering a new contract with Ocean Gold, the settlement requires approval of any such contract by U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan, who mediated the settlement. The settlement agreement will be effective for five years, at which point the plaintiffs may petition Judge Hogan for a five-year extension.
In a press release, Judge Hogan commented, “this case could have gone on for years, including appeals. The fishermen and the processors, especially Pacific Seafood Group, are to be commended for taking a statesmanlike approach to resolving this complicated case.”
Attorneys for the plaintiff are expected to collect $2.9 million in fees and expenses to be paid by Pacific Seafood’s insurer.