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Advised Client on National Antitrust Litigation Affecting the Dairy Industry

Agri-Mark, Inc.

Nine years of contentious litigation involving Shipman & Goodwin client Agri-Mark, Inc. are coming to an end. A class action lawsuit in the Southern District of Illinois brought by a national class of direct purchasers of cheese and butter alleged that dairy cooperatives, as members of the National Milk Producers Federation’s (“NMPF”) Cooperatives Working Together (“CWT”) program, conspired to increase the price of raw farm milk, butter and cheese, by funding CWT’s voluntary herd retirement program. Separately, retail chain Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. brought its own antitrust suit in the Middle District of Florida, based on similar allegations. Plaintiffs and Defendant NMPF entered into settlement agreements in both cases in late 2019 and early 2020. Under the terms of both settlements, the settlement monies are being paid exclusively by NMPF, with all claims against Agri-Mark and the other defendants released. The settlements were finalized in the weeks before each trial was scheduled, after years of contentious litigation. The Illinois class settlement has been preliminarily approved by the court and a hearing on final approval is scheduled for April 27, 2020. In the Florida case, Shipman & Goodwin’s efforts in leading, on behalf of the defense group, a successful statute of limitations defense, resulted in reducing the damages available to plaintiff by over 70%, which helped enable the settlement of the case. Together, the settlements lift the years-long legal cloud over the dairy industry and allow Agri-Mark to move forward for the benefit of its member farmers and customers.

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