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Norwegian Salmon Antitrust Case Nets $33 Million Settlement

On October 6, 2022, a proposed class of indirect salmon buyers (the “Settlement Class”) obtained a class-wide settlement of $33 million to resolve antitrust claims against Norwegian salmon producers, alleging that they inflated farm-raised salmon prices in the United States. In the preliminary approval motion, counsel for the Settlement Class indicated that the settlement is “an excellent result for the class” since it would avoid lengthy litigation and the uncertainties of prosecution against foreign defendants.

The price-fixing action was brought against several of Norway’s major salmon-farming firms: Mowi, Mowi USA, Mowi Canada West, Ducktrap River of Maine, Grieg Seafood, Grieg Seafood BC, Grieg Seafood North America, Ocean Quality North America, Grieg Seafood USA, Ocean Quality Premium Brands, Sjór AS, SalMar, Lerøy Seafood, Lerøy Seafood USA, Cermaq Group, Cermaq US, Cermaq Canada, and Cermaq Norway (collectively, “Defendants”).

The suit alleged that the Defendants leveraged their market power to boost salmon prices by exchanging pricing and other competitive information with each other.

The Settlement Class is estimated to consist of nearly 400,000 businesses that purchased salmon from the Defendants across 32 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam. The named plaintiffs include Portland Hunt & Alpine Club LLC, Prime Steakhouse, Rocca Kurt’s Brothers Inc., Stephen T. Deangelis Inc., Amy Mehaffey, Nautical Okoboji LLC, People’s Food Cooperative, Classic City Catering, and Bama Seafood Inc (collectively, the “Indirect Purchaser Plaintiffs”).

The process leading up to the settlement required substantial effort. Counsel for the Settlement Class tackled significant discovery issues. Document review was particularly burdensome in this case, as the key documents, including communications among defendants, were mainly in Norwegian, and thus had to be searched and reviewed in the original language and then translated into English. During the process, the Indirect Purchaser Plaintiffs coordinated with Direct Purchaser Plaintiffs who already reached an $85 million settlement in May, jointly conducting ten depositions, and jointly questioning each witness.

The Indirect Purchaser Plaintiffs adequately represented the interests of the class, responding to Defendants’ discovery requests and producing thousands of documents, including paper and electronic records. The production of these documents was particularly burdensome since the Plaintiffs mostly consisted of small businesses, including one sole proprietorship, that did not have sophisticated recordkeeping systems or extra staff for review. Counsel for the Settlement Class reviewed over 50,000 documents and oversaw a team of Norwegian language reviewers. Finally, the Indirect Purchaser Plaintiffs retained an expert to analyze their damages and consider the impact of the alleged anticompetitive scheme on them as downstream actors from the direct purchasers.

The Indirect Purchaser Plaintiffs are represented by Miller Shah LLP, Lockridge Grindal Nauen PLLP, and Zwerling Schachter & Zwerling LLP.

The legal team at Miller Shah LLP has extensive experience representing class action matters. If you have any questions regarding this subject or this post, please contact Chiharu Sekino (cgsekino@millershah.com) and Mark Xiao (mxiao@millershah.com). The Firm can also be reached toll-free at (866) 540-5505.

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