Mass price-fixing claims “too vague”, say salmon farmers

“Vague allegations of unspecified conduct by unspecified defendants at unspecified times”.

A latest behind a spate of lawsuits are directed at suing some of the world’s biggest salmon farmers.

Since April last year, a number of small businesses have been bringing law action suits against the salmon giants based on US anti-trust legislation. These include Mowi, SalMar, Lerøy, Bremnes and exporter Ocean Quality (Ocean Quality is the sales organisation of Grieg Seafood and Bremnes Seashore).

According to the proposed class action filed in Miami federal court, the lawsuits accuse the companies of allegedly conspiring to fix the price of salmon by coordinating sales prices, exchanging commercially sensitive information, agreeing to buy products from competitors when these sell at low prices and coordinating a strategy to increase spot prices to achieve higher prices for longterm contracts.

Bloomberg reports that it had seen court papers filed on Monday in a Miami federal court that the salmon farmers claimed that the antitrust lawsuit relies on “vague allegations of unspecified conduct by unspecified defendants at unspecified times, which are insufficient as a matter of law to state a claim”.

The lawsuits were based on last February’s European Commission anti-cartel investigation into Grieg Seafood Shetland, Lerøy-SalMar owned Scottish Sea Farms and Mowi.

Later, in November, Mowi, SalMar and Grieg Seafood, were handed subpoenas by the US Department of Justice, who are opening a criminal investigation involving allegations of similar conduct.

Both the above are still ongoing.

“Mowi has not been involved in price-fixing or other anti-competitive conduct, and believe that the allegations are unfounded,” wrote a Mowi spokesperson.

A Grieg spokesperson told SalmonBusiness: “We are not aware of any anti-competitive behaviour in the EU, the US or any other country. We are following up the lawsuits legally”.

SalmonBusiness has contacted Lerøy and SalMar for comment.