IN RE: PROCESSED EGG PRODUCTS ANTITRUST LITIGATION: A PANEL DISCUSSION WITH TRIAL COUNSEL
By Lee F. Berger1
In the In re: Processed Eggs Products Antitrust Litigation2, often referred to as the Eggs litigation, direct and indirect purchasers of eggs accused major egg producers of conspiring to control and limit the nation’s egg supply, thereby increasing egg prices through a number of allegedly interrelated anticompetitive practices. Specifically, plaintiffs allege that defendant egg producers violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act by developing and implementing a sham animal welfare program, exporting eggs at a loss, and reducing egg production in periods of oversupply through coordinated actions. Those alleged coordinated actions included reducing chick hatches, promoting early molting and slaughtering hens early. The defendants denied these allegations.
Ten defendants settled, but after more than a decade of litigation three egg producersâ Rose Acre Farms, R.W. Sauder and Ohio Fresh Eggsâwent to trial against the direct purchaser class. Plaintiffs sought more than a billion dollars in damages before trebling.
Trial started May 2, 2018, in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, before Judge Gene Pratter. Judge Pratter rejected the application of the per se rule to the alleged conspiracy, meaning that the plaintiffs had to prove under the rule-of-reason that the conspiracy had an anticompetitive effect.