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Meat Giant JBS Adds New Law Head After Facing Antitrust Scrutiny

April 20, 2021, 7:41 PM

JBS SA, the world’s largest meat supplier, said Tuesday it hired Kevin Arquit for a new global legal role within its executive leadership team.

Arquit will be legal chief for JBS USA Food Co. LLC, a corporate entity that includes the São Paulo, Brazil-based company’s global operations outside of its home country, including its businesses in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe, JBS spokeswoman Nikki Richardson said.

Arquit, a former general counsel for the Federal Trade Commission and director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, joins JBS from Kasowitz Benson Torres in New York, where he co-chaired the law firm’s antitrust group. He’ll start his new job May 3.

His addition as chief legal officer comes less than a week after JBS agreed to pay nearly $13 million to resolve a putative pork price-fixing class action case filed by restaurants and retailers. That deal followed a $24.5 million settlement by JBS with pork wholesalers and another $20 million antitrust agreement approved earlier this month with pork consumers.

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan is representing JBS in the trio of antitrust actions that bring the company’s settlement tab this year to nearly $58 million. JBS is also facing lawsuits and government inquiries into workplace safety conditions stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

Asked whether the company brought on a new legal chief in response to those legal entanglements, Richardson told Bloomberg Law that Arquit was hired to “help build best-in-class legal, ethics, and compliance programs.”

Arquit didn’t respond to a request for comment about whether he served as an outside legal adviser to JBS during his time in private practice.

“Leveraging my varied experience, I am focused on providing the highest-quality counsel and services to the global team,” he said in a statement.

Kasowitz hired Arquit in early 2019 from Weil, Gotshal & Manges, a firm where he spent two years co-heading its global antitrust and competition practice. Weil welcomed Arquit to its partnership ranks in January 2017 from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, where he also headed that firm’s antitrust group.

Simpson Thacher recruited Arquit in late 2002 from Clifford Chance, where he was also an antitrust leader and one of many partners to flee the firm following its merger with New York’s Rogers & Wells, which hired Arquit from the FTC in 1992.

Legal Liabilities

Weil is currently representing Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., a JBS subsidiary and the second-largest U.S. chicken producer, in a federal antitrust case over alleged wage-fixing by poultry processors.

Weil, which handled Pilgrim’s $800 million sale to JBS in 2009, also advised Pilgrim’s earlier this year on a $75 million antitrust class action settlement with chicken wholesalers. Bloomberg Law data shows that Weil has handled more than five percent of JBS’ federal litigation work within the U.S. over the last five years.

Simpson Thacher, another of Arquit’s former firms, has previously advised on corporate and securities matters involving JBS.

Other leading firms appearing in U.S. courts for JBS during that time were Omaha’s McGrath North Mullin & Kratz; Denver-based Sherman & Howard; Kansas City, Mo.-based Spencer Fane Britt & Browne; and Quinn Emanuel, per Bloomberg Law data.

Squire Patton Boggs received $120,000 from JBS last year to lobby on “legislative developments that could adversely affect the growth of the company’s food processing businesses,” according to U.S. Senate filings.

The company has also paid $558,000 since early 2020 to agribusiness consulting firm the Keys Group LLC to lobby on immigration reform and meat inspection issues.

Kimberly Pryor, an in-house lawyer for the company who took over last year as a Greeley, Colo.-based general counsel for JBS USA, will remain in her role.

Christopher Gaddis, a fellow former general counsel for JBS USA, has spent nearly the past decade as its head of human resources. Gaddis has been at the forefront in responding to regulatory inquiries into conditions for JBS workers at its U.S. facilities.

JBS announced in February that it would offer Covid-19 vaccines to about 8,500 workers at its American subsidiaries, including Pilgrim’s. JBS said in January it would give a $100 bonus to U.S. workers that chose to take vaccines for Covid-19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com
John Hughes in Washington at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com

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