The federal Department of Justice said the provisions of consent decrees signed by Cargill, Sanderson and Wayne Farms prevents them from exchanging compensation information for 10 years.
They also agreed to a decade of antitrust compliance monitoring and to stop "deceptive conduct toward chicken growers that lowers their compensation."
One of the main issues was the “poultry tournament system” that has growers competiting to see who comes out best and wins top compensation.
The system is described in the Super Size Me II documentary where a grower who helped researcher Michael Moore found himself demoted from top to bottom and suffered a big cut in compensation.
The settlements also would ban G. Jonathan Meng, president of Webber, Meng, Sahl and Company (WMS), a data consulting firm, from the industry.
“Through a brazen scheme to exchange wage and benefit information, these poultry processors stifled competition and harmed a generation of plant workers who face demanding and sometimes dangerous conditions to earn a living,” said principal deputy assistant Attorney General Doha Mekki of the justice department’s antitrust division, in the posting.
“Today’s action puts companies and individuals on notice: the antitrust division will use all of its available legal authorities to address anticompetitive conduct that harms consumers, workers, farmers and other American producers.”
“This resolution yields significant reforms to the poultry tournament system, including ending one of its most troubling aspects around deceptive base prices, and enhancing transparency in contracting, earnings and inputs that will protect and benefit growers as the United States Department of Agriculture has proposed in our Packers & Stockyard Act rulemaking,” said Andy Green, USDA’s senior adviser for fair and competitive markets.