Antitrust litigation against the country’s top peanut shelling companies has concluded after a federal judge in Virginia approved a $45 million settlement between an
Judge Raymond A. Jackson signed off late Tuesday on the agreement with ADM unit Golden Peanut Co., nearly four months after giving his blessing to a $50 million deal letting Birdsong Corp. out of the case and a $7.75 million settlement with an Olam International Ltd. affiliate.
“Adjudication of plaintiffs’ claims has already proven costly,” and “future appeals of any jury outcome are not only possible, but likely given the amount of money at stake,” Jackson wrote. “Any further litigation of this case would be lengthy, complex, and expensive, making settlement favorable to the class.”
The ruling came one day after a final fairness hearing July 26, at which the judge indicated he would approve the deal and take “under advisement” a bid by class counsel for fees totaling one-third of the $102.75 million settlement fund.
Jackson, who awarded $1.9 million in expenses to class counsel in April, didn’t rule on the fee request in his order Tuesday.
The lawsuit, filed in 2019, accuses the peanut shellers of doctoring inventory numbers “to create the false impression of an oversupplied market,” then offering artificially low prices that forced small growers to borrow ruinously against their farm equity.
Jackson, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, let the case advance in May 2020, saying three allegations make collusion the most plausible explanation for the prices: a clear motive to conspire, simultaneous price changes, and efforts to conceal “actual peanut inventory.” He certified the suit as a class action in December.
Lockridge Grindal Nauen PLLP and Freed Kanner London & Millen LLC are co-lead counsel for the farmers, who are also represented by Spector, Roseman & Kodroff PC and liaison counsel Durrette, Arkema, Gerson & Gill PC.
Golden Peanut is represented by Kirkland & Ellis LLP and McGuireWoods LLP. Birdsong is represented by Kaufman & Canoles PC. Olam is represented by Latham & Watkins LLP and Stoel Rives LLP.
The case is In re Peanut Farmers Antitrust Litig., E.D. Va., No. 19-cv-463, 7/27/21.