Justice Department sues poultry processors over suppressing worker pay, deceiving farmers

Two of the defendants pitted chicken farmers against each other to lower prices, prosecutors claimed

Updated: July 26, 2022 - 3:58pm

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The Justice Department has file and antitrust suit in federal court alleging three major U.S. poultry processors and a data consulting firm conspired to deceive and abuse workers and poultry farmers.

Federal prosecutors allege the processors and the data firm violated the Sherman Antitrust Act by exchanging information about employee wages and benefits and collaborated on compensation decisions, the department said Monday in announcing the suit.

Two of the defendants pitted chicken farmers against each other to lower prices, prosecutors alleged.

The lawsuit names as defendants data consulting firm Webber, Meng, Sahl and Company and its president, G. Jonathan Meng, as well as poultry processors Cargill, Sanderson Farms and Wayne Farms.

"Through a brazen scheme to exchange wage and benefit information, these poultry processors stifled competition and harmed a generation of plant workers who face demanding and sometimes dangerous conditions to earn a living," Justice  antitrust attorney Doha Mekki said.

The agency worked with the Agriculture Department in its investigation. 

The defendants and co-conspirators account for 90% of all chicken processing jobs in the United States, The Associated Press reported.

The Justice Department said it is seeking to impose a court-appointed compliance monitor on the processors and require more than $84 million in restitution for plant workers.