A lawsuit has been filed in the US alleging price-fixing of Norwegian farmed salmon by a host of companies in a case linked to an investigation launched by the European Commission in February.
The class-action lawsuit was filed in the US District Court in the Southern District of Florida (Miami division) by the Ohio-based seafood distributor Euclid Fish Company “individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated”, according to the Court document, claiming they paid “artificially inflated” prices for farm-raised salmon.
The case relates to the “unlawful coordination of the prices charged to direct purchasers of farm-raised salmon and salmon products derived therefrom (such as salmon fillets or smoked salmon) which were sold directly by” the named Norwegian companies: Mowi (formerly Marine Harvest), Grieg Seafood, SalMar and Leroy Seafood.
Scottish Sea Farms, a joint venture with Salmar and Leroy Seafood, has also been implicated in the allegations dating back to July 2015 to the present and in violation of certain sections of the Sherman Anti Trust Act, along with Bremnes Seashore and Ocean Quality, which is the jointly-owned sales arm of Grieg Seafood and Bremnes.
Brussels confirmed in February it carried out unannounced inspections at certain sites owned by the named companies and subsidiaries across various jurisdictions, with those firms acknowledging the visits were carried out.
However, at the time, the European Commission (EC) stressed its inspections did not imply any of the salmon companies were guilty of “anti-competitive practises” and its investigation was purely preliminary at that stage.
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The EC noted then in a statement: “The Commission has concerns that the inspected companies may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices – Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The Commission officials were accompanied by their counterparts from the relevant national competition authorities.”
The US lawsuit is being led by law firm Hausfeld, headed by Arthur Bailey, who did not respond to just-food’s request for comment on the proceedings.
Meanwhile, most of the implicated firms did respond.
A Mowi spokesperson told just-food: “A US company has filed a class-action lawsuit against multiple Norwegian and Scottish salmon farming companies. The filing is based on the inspections made by the EU Commission earlier this year, alleging anti-competitive conduct. Mowi has not been involved in price fixing or other anti-competitive conduct, and believe that the allegations are unfounded.”
Trond Tuvstein, the chief financial officer of Salmar, said: “The allegations we have seen appear to us as unfounded. We will move closer to the matter and will possibly comment further on a later occasion.”
And Kristina Furnes, the communications manager at Grieg Seafood, said: “We are aware of the lawsuit. It is based on the EU Commission’s investigation that started in February, where they are exploring potential anti-competitive behaviour in the salmon industry. We are not aware of any anti-competitive behaviour, neither in Norway, the EU or the USA. We are fully cooperating with the EU Commission in this case.”
Leroy Seafood has yet to respond to a request from just-food for comment on the case.