Tyson Foods in Hot Water After Price-Fixing Conspiracy

Tyson Foods has never had a saintly reputation, but that hasn’t stopped it from growing into a poultry powerhouse and America’s largest producer of meats. In 2015, Tyson Foods raked in $41 billion in sales.

But several major scandals, a slew of class action lawsuits, one damning report from Pivotal Research, and another from Oxfam have left investors scattering.

Since September 22, Tyson’s share price has dropped from $76.76 to $70.67 (as of this writing), at times bottoming out at $67.75—its largest dip in six years. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court and a U.S. District Court in Iowa recently upheld a $6 million award for Tyson employees who hadn’t received full pay for their labor.

If the new antitrust charges stick, those financial blows could be just the beginning.

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Chicken Makers in Cahoots?

On September 2, 2016, New York-based Maplevale Farms filed an antitrust lawsuit in Illinois alleging that the $30 billion poultry industry had hatched a scheme in 2007 to inflate and fix chicken prices. That class action has since spawned five others, which will likely be consolidated into a multi-district litigation (MDL) later this year.

Of course, if the Justice Department deems this a legitimate antitrust case, they could take the reins of the lawsuit.

Source: Bloomberg
Source: Bloomberg

Among the 14 defendants are Tyson, Perdue Farms, Pilgrim’s Pride, Sanderson Farms, and Simmons Foods. The lawsuit claims that Big Chicken jointly agreed to limit production (in some cases by simply killing off chickens early) and raise prices on chicken.

The complaint says this was a coordinated, industry-wide effort facilitated in part through a data service called Agri Stats, which allows these companies to track each other’s propriety information.

Since 2007, chicken prices—which historically fluctuate over time—have risen steadily.

Peter Carstensen, a former antitrust lawyer for the Justice Department, tells Bloomberg, “It makes sense to cut back production if, and only if, your competitors cut back, too.”

Mr. Carstensen seems bullish on the antitrust lawsuit, saying, “You’re asking the court to infer collusion. With Agri Stats, those meetings, and then, if you can line up the conduct to show reasonable uniformity, that would pretty much do it.”

Pivotal Report Reverberates on Wall Street

Like Peter Carstensen, Tim Ramey—a stock analyst for the Pivotal Research Group—feels that “the narrative of this suit fits the fact-pattern of poultry pricing and margins over the past seven years.”

“The narrative of this suit fits the fact-pattern of poultry pricing and margins over the past seven years.”

On October 7, Mr. Ramey urged investors to sell their Tyson stock. He also lowered its target share price by 60%, from $100 to just $40. Investors listened: Tyson’s price plummeted that day by nearly 10%.

Mr. Ramey called the lawsuits “powerfully convincing” and wrote, “If [the allegations are] true, it explains a lot. It explains why Tyson can offer EPS guidelines with remarkable precision; boasting of margins at record levels well into the future.”

Unfortunately for Tyson, these antitrust suits are not the only class actions threatening its business.

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Courts Uphold $6 Million Verdict

In March the Supreme Court voted 6-2 to uphold a $5.8 million award for Tyson workers in Storm Lake, Iowa who had not been paid for the time spent at work donning and removing protective gear: a clear violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Tyson wanted the case thrown out, claiming there was not enough evidence to determine the damages owed each worker. According to Mother Jones, the company also wanted

the court to issue a broad ruling that would effectively immunize it against future class actions for wage and hour theft, and make it much harder for workers everywhere to join together to bring such claims. If it wins this case, Tyson could have it both ways: It could effectively continue to violate the FLSA and escape liability for it in court.

Thankfully the Supreme Court did not let that happen. But Tyson didn’t stop there: in June, the company asked the U.S. District Court in Sioux City, Iowa for a retrial. Judge John Jarvey denied that appeal.

It looks like Tyson will just have to pay its workers what they’re owed—which is the least it can do, given how the company allegedly treats them.

Tyson Employees Wear Diapers to Work

The Iowa case is not the first time Tyson employees have described abuse. In May, Oxfam America released a report titled “No Relief” which detailed myriad human rights violations by Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s, Perdue, and Sanderson Farms.

The report alleges that poultry workers “earn low wages, suffer elevated rates of injury and illness, toil in difficult conditions, and have little voice in the workplace.”

Incredibly, Oxfam also writes that, due to long hours and a lack of adequate bathroom breaks,

Workers urinate and defecate while standing on the line; they wear diapers to work; they restrict intake of liquids and fluids to dangerous degrees; they endure pain and discomfort while they worry about their health and job security. And they are in danger of serious health problems.

“The vast majority of workers report a lack of adequate bathroom breaks,” the report says.

Tyson denied Oxfam’s claims, while the National Chicken Council questioned their validity given the workers’ anonymity.

But if the “No Relief” report is true, Tyson could soon have yet another class action lawsuit on its hands.

A Timeline of Monsanto’s Roundup Controversy

Monsanto is no stranger to controversy. This is the company that brought us Agent Orange, an herbicide deployed during the Vietnam War that wound up traumatizing both the Vietnamese and our own troops. (Monsanto would later reach a $180 million settlement with Vietnam vets over diseases like leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease, and respiratory cancer.)

Hold Monsanto Accountable

In 1974, four years after the U.S. stopped using Agent Orange, Monsanto introduced Roundup (glyphosate)—another powerful herbicide that quickly became a mainstay on most American farms.

But like Agent Orange, Roundup would be linked to cancer. This herbicide, too, could wind up costing the company millions.



Monsanto patents and releases Roundup-Ready seeds, which are genetically modified to withstand the ubiquitous Roundup herbicide. (These seeds/crops are known as GMCs: genetically modified crops.) This allows farmers to kill weeds (in the short term, at least) without also dooming their own crops.

Over the next 20 years, Roundup-Ready crops will come to dominate their respective markets, eventually reaching a 90% share.

Thanks to the Roundup-Ready patent and relevant legal protections—and Monsanto’s aggressive acquisitions of its competitors—some argue that Monsanto has a monopoly on the biotech industry. (Without question, it is the largest biotech company in the world.)


The Oscar-nominated documentary Food, Inc. is released on June 12. The film shows Monsanto in a harsh light, portraying the company as mobilizing an army of attorneys to bully farmers into using their Roundup-Ready soybeans—and suing those who won’t cooperate.

Importantly, the film emphasizes that the Roundup-Ready seeds are “terminating” seeds. That means farmers can’t replant them; instead, they must go back to Monsanto to buy more seeds whenever they run out.

Food, Inc. inflicts so much damage on Monsanto’s reputation that the company creates several pages on its website just to respond to the charges lobbed in the film.


Entropy—a peer-reviewed scientific journal based in Switzerland—publishes a study that concludes

glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of other food borne chemical residues and environmental toxins. Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body.

According to the study, one of the consequences of this negative impact is cancer.

Hold Monsanto Accountable


In March, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, or IARC (part of the World Health Organization, or WHO) assesses the potential cancer-causing (carcinogenic) effects of glyphosate (Roundup). It determines that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

That fall, plaintiffs file the first of at least 25 lawsuits against Monsanto over Roundup’s allegedly cancer-causing effects. Many plaintiffs, like Yolanda Mendoza, just sprayed Roundup on their yard every week.

Ms. Mendoza, a mother of three, contracted Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2013. (After intensive chemotherapy, her cancer is currently in remission.)

“What everyone has in common is that they all used Roundup and they all have non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”

Her attorney Robin L. Greenwald tells CBS News, “Some people are landscapers, some people are migrant farm workers, some people are farmers. What everyone has in common is that they all used Roundup and they all have non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”

For the year, Monsanto rakes in $4.75 billion in herbicide sales.


In April, the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOME) publishes a study that concludes that herbicides like glyphosate are “associated with a high risk of cutaneous melanoma” (skin cancer), “in particular among those exposed to occupational sun exposure.”

In September, pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG announces it will buy Monsanto for $66 billion, raising serious concerns about rising prices for farmers. (This is the second massive merger of the year after the Dow-DuPont deal.)

Later that month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finds trace amounts of Roundup in various oatmeals, cereals, and baby foods.

The next month, federal judges consolidate dozens of Monsanto Roundup lawsuits into a multi-district litigation (MDL) in the Northern District of California.


If you or a loved one contracted cancer after using Roundup, please contact us today to explore your legal options. Our firm is one of the most successful consumer protection firms in the country, with more than 300 attorneys and a support staff of 1,500. We have a history of standing up to bullies and have never represented a large corporation—that’s why our motto is “For the People.”

We may be able to help you get relief for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other expenses. Don’t wait; these lawsuits are time-sensitive, and you may be owed compensation.

Wells Fargo Under Fire for Bogus Accounts Scandal

Wells Fargo must pay $185 million in fines for secretly opening unauthorized debit and credit card accounts for customers in a scheme engineered to boost stock prices and executive pay.

The money will go to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the City and County of Los Angeles, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Also in line to receive restitution are the victims of the scheme, who had accounts unwittingly opened in their names.

Hold Wells Fargo Accountable

But while governments and consumers have scored a victory in the scandal’s resolution, there has been no financial relief for Wells Fargo employees claiming they were fired or demoted for playing by the rules and not opening secret accounts to meet sales quotas.

“Cross-Selling” Goes Back to at Least 2002

Federal regulators say Wells Fargo employees opened 1.5 million bank accounts and applied for 565,000 credit cards without customers’ permission. The bank has fired more than 5,000 employees involved in the scheme.

During a Senate Banking Committee hearing, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf defended the bank’s publicly stated goal of opening eight accounts per customer, whch it calls “cross-selling.” Wells Fargo set the goal of eight accounts as early as 2002, according to a Public Citizen report.

Stumpf earned $19.3 million in 2015 as the company’s stock became a Wall Street favorite. Wells Fargo is currently the most valuable bank in the world.

“Cross-selling is shorthand for deepening relationships,” he told the Committee.

Stumpf said Wells Fargo fired workers between 2011 and 2015 for the sales practices in question, but also said the issue didn’t reach the board level until 2013. He claims he wasn’t personally aware of the extent of the problem until 2015.

He maintained there was no orchestrated deception by Wells Fargo, and that the 5,300 employees it fired for creating false accounts were acting independently.

But this explanation does not square with the claim made by regulators and former workers that Wells Fargo employees were encouraged to open the unauthorized accounts through a compensation scheme that awarded them for increasing their cross-sale numbers.

Former Wells Fargo Workers Sound Off

Dennis Russell, a telephone banker with Wells Fargo in Orange County, California for five years, said he was fired in 2010 for not meeting sales quotas. He told the New York Times that he couldn’t legitimately offer banking products to the customers he spoke with because many of them were already behind on their mortgages, credit cards, and cars.

“They established the culture that made this happen—it comes down from the top.”

Russell lost his home after losing his job with Wells Fargo. He scoffs at John Stumpf’s claim that the bank did not encourage fraudulence in the pursuit of cross-sale quotas.

“It’s a crock,” Russell said. “They established the culture that made this happen—it comes down from the top.”

Christopher Johnson told the Times he was fired from Wells Fargo in 2008 after a five-month stint as a business banker for refusing to go along with pressure from his manager to open accounts for his friends and family, even if he didn’t have their permission to do so. He reported his concerns to the company’s ethics hotline and was fired three days later for “not meeting expectations.”

Johnson lost his home and possessions and spent the better part of a year living out of his truck.

Hold Wells Fargo Accountable

The Wells Fargo scandal is just the latest example of executives at major companies concocting schemes that benefit them at the expense of low-level employees.

If Wells Fargo will not do the right thing and compensate the real victims of its fraud—the employees that were fired for not engaging in unethical business practices—it is up to the workers themselves to demand justice.

If you are a former Wells Fargo employee who refused to set up accounts without customers’ knowledge and were punished for it, we would like to hear from you. Contact us for a free, confidential case review.

Often the lead class action plaintiff receives extra compensation for his or her role in the case.