In re Processed Egg Products Antitrust Litigation Website
www.eggproductssettlement.com

Frequently Asked Questions

Midwest Poultry, NFC, and UEP/USEM Settlements and Second Sparboe Amendment

  1. What is this lawsuit about?
  2. Who is included in the Midwest, NFC, and UEP/USEM Settlements?
  3. Why are there Settlements with Midwest, NFC, and UEP/USEM and what do they provide?
  4. When will the Midwest, NFC, and UEP/USEM Settlement Funds be distributed?
  5. What is the effect of the Court’s final approval of the Midwest, NFC, and/or UEP/USEM Settlements?
  6. Who is included in the Sparboe Settlement as Amended?
  7. What does the Sparboe Settlement Provide?
  8. What is the effect of the Court’s final approval of the Second Sparboe Amendment?
  9. Who represents the Midwest, NFC, and UEP/USEM and Sparboe Settlement Classes?
  10. How will the lawyers be paid?
  11. When and where did the Court hold a hearing on the fairness of the Midwest, NFC, and UEP/USEM Settlements and the Second Sparboe Amendment?
  12. How do I object to the Midwest, NFC, and UEP/USEM Settlements or the Second Sparboe Amendment?
  13. How do I exclude myself from the Settlements?
  14. What happens if I did nothing?


1. What is this lawsuit about?

In this lawsuit, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants, certain Producers of Shell Eggs and Egg Products, conspired to decrease the supply of eggs. Plaintiffs allege that this supply conspiracy limited, fixed, raised, stabilized, or maintained the price of eggs, which caused direct purchasers to pay more for eggs than they would have otherwise paid. The term “eggs” refers to both Shell Eggs and Egg Products (which are eggs removed from their shells for further processing into a dried, frozen, or liquid form), but do not include specialty Shell Eggs, such as cage-free, organic, or nutritionally enhanced eggs, eggs used for growing, or Egg Products produced from such eggs.

Plaintiffs represent both themselves (the named plaintiffs) and the entire Class of direct egg purchasers across the United States. Plaintiffs brought this lawsuit as a class action because they believe, among other things, that a class action is superior to filing individual cases and that the claims of each member of the class present and share common questions of law and fact. Plaintiffs claim that Defendants’ actions violated the Sherman Antitrust Act, a federal statute that prohibits any agreement that unreasonably restrains competition. The alleged agreement was to reduce the overall supply of eggs in the United States from the year 2000 to the present. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants and unnamed co-conspirators controlled the egg supply through various methods that were all part of a wide-ranging conspiracy. These methods allegedly include, but are not limited to, agreements to limit or dispose of hen flocks, a pre-textual animal welfare program that was a cover to further reduce egg supply, agreements to export eggs in order to remove eggs from the domestic supply, and the unlawful coercion of producers and customers to ensure compliance with the conspiracy. Plaintiffs allege that by collectively agreeing to lower the supply of eggs, Defendants caused Shell Egg and Egg Product prices to be higher than they otherwise would have been. Midwest, NFC, UEP and USEM and the other Defendants deny all of Plaintiffs’ allegations.

For more information, please consult the Notice.

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2. Who is included in the Midwest, NFC, and UEP/USEM Settlements?

Midwest, NFC, and UEP/USEM entered into separate Settlement Agreements with Plaintiffs, but all three agreements include the same Class definition. For purposes of these Agreements, the Settlement Class is defined as follows:

All persons and entities that purchased Shell Eggs and Egg Products in the United States directly from any Producer, including any Defendant, during the Class Period from January 1, 2000 through July 30, 2014.

Excluded from the Settlement Class are:

  1. Midwest, NFC, and UEP/USEM, the Defendants that remain in the case, prior Settling Defendants (Moark Defendants, Sparboe and Cal-Maine), and their respective parents, subsidiaries and affiliates;
  2. Egg Producers, defined as any person or entity that owns, contracts for the use of, leases, or otherwise controls hens for the purpose of producing eggs for sale, and the parents, subsidiaries, and affiliated companies of such Producers;
  3. All government entities, as well as the Court and staff to whom this case is assigned, and any member of the Court’s or staff’s immediate family.
  4. Purchases of “specialty” Shell Eggs (certified organic, nutritionally enhanced, cage-free, free-range, and vegetarian-fed types), purchases of Egg Products produced from specialty Shell Eggs, and purchases of “hatching” Shell Eggs (used by poultry breeders to produce breeder stock or growing stock for laying hens or meat), and any person or entity that purchased exclusively specialty or hatching eggs.

Persons or entities that fall within the definition of the Settlement Class and do not exclude themselves will be bound by the terms of the Settlement Agreements.

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3. Why are there Settlements with Midwest, NFC, and UEP/USEM and what do they provide?

The NFC Settlement. Plaintiffs and Defendant National Food Corporation (“NFC”) entered into settlement discussions in late 2012 and early 2013. Those discussions continued on an intermittent basis during 2013 and into 2014, during which time Plaintiffs’ counsel reviewed more than 100,000 NFC documents and NFC’s financial statements. After extensive arm’s-length negotiations, on March 28, 2014, Plaintiffs and NFC reached a settlement providing $1 million to a fund to compensate Class Members. The settlement amount was based primarily on NFC’s uncertain financial condition and limited egg sales volume. Under the settlement, NFC also will provide information concerning NFC’s knowledge of the facts relating to documents, witnesses, meetings, communications, conduct and events at issue in the Action, and as many as two witnesses to testify at trial. It is the opinion of Plaintiffs’ attorneys that these nonmonetary benefits will materially assist Plaintiffs in further analyzing and prosecuting this Action against the remaining Defendants. Pursuant to the terms of the NFC Settlement, Plaintiffs will release NFC from all pending claims.

The Midwest Settlement. Plaintiffs and Defendant Midwest Poultry Services, LP (“Midwest”) entered into settlement discussions beginning in January 2014. After approximately two months of extensive arm’s-length negotiations, on March 28, 2014, Plaintiffs and Midwest reached a settlement providing $2.5 million to a fund to compensate Class Members. The settlement amount was based primarily on Midwest’s uncertain financial condition and the fact that the great majority of its egg sales were made to entities that are not members of the settlement class. Under the settlement, Midwest also will provide information concerning Midwest’s knowledge of the facts relating to documents, witnesses, meetings, communications, conduct and events at issue in the Action, and a witness to testify at trial. It is the opinion of Plaintiffs’ attorneys that these nonmonetary benefits will materially assist Plaintiffs in further analyzing and prosecuting this Action against the remaining Defendants. Pursuant to the terms of the Midwest Settlement, Plaintiffs will release Midwest from all pending claims. If Class Members whose combined purchases equal or exceed a threshold percentage of Midwest’s Total Sales, agreed to by Plaintiffs and Midwest under a separate agreement provided to the Court for review, choose to exclude themselves from the Settlement Agreement, Midwest has the right to terminate the Settlement.

The UEP/USEM Settlement. Plaintiffs and Defendants United Egg Producers (“UEP”) and United States Egg Marketers (“USEM”) entered into settlement discussions beginning in July 2013. Those discussions continued on an intermittent basis during 2013 and into 2014. After extensive arm’s length negotiations, on May 21, 2014, Plaintiffs and UEP/USEM reached a settlement providing $500,000 to a fund to compensate Class Members. The settlement amount was based primarily on the limited financial resources of UEP and USEM and the fact that neither UEP nor USEM is a producer of eggs or egg products. Under the settlement, UEP and USEP agree to produce documents previously withheld on the ground of privilege and which pertain to one of Defendants’ primary defenses in this Action. Prior to entering into the settlement agreement, a selection of such documents was reviewed by a magistrate judge, who confirmed to Plaintiffs’ counsel that the documents were likely to provide material value in prosecuting this Action. UEP and USEP also will provide witnesses selected by Plaintiffs’ counsel to testify at trial. It is the opinion of Plaintiffs’ attorneys that these nonmonetary benefits will materially assist Plaintiffs in further analyzing and prosecuting this Action against the remaining Defendants. Pursuant to the terms of the UEP/USEM Settlement, Plaintiffs will release UEP and USEM from all pending claims.

The Midwest, NFC, and UEP/USEM Settlements should not be taken as an admission by any of Midwest, NFC, UEP or USEM of any allegation by Plaintiffs or of wrongdoing of any kind. These settlements are between Plaintiffs and Midwest, NFC, and UEP/USEM only; they do not affect any of the remaining non-settling Defendants, against whom this case continues. Finally, the Court ordered that Plaintiffs shall provide notice of the Midwest, NFC, and UEP/USEM Settlements to all members of the Settlement Class who can be identified through reasonable effort.

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4. When will the Midwest, NFC, and UEP/USEM Settlement Funds be distributed?

At an appropriate time, possibly in conjunction with future settlements, Plaintiffs’ Counsel may propose, subject to the Court’s approval, a plan to allocate and distribute the Midwest, NFC, and UEP/USEM Settlement Funds, net of the costs of notifying the settlement class and administering the settlement, and any attorneys' fees, incentive awards and/or expense reimbursement awarded by the Court, among Settlement Class Members. It is common in cases like this one for the proceeds of settlements to be distributed on a pro rata basis among the members of the Class who timely and properly submit a valid Claim Form. This was the approach proposed for distribution of the Cal-Maine Settlement Fund, as described in the Notice dated February 28, 2014. As part of the Court’s later consideration of any proposed plan of allocation and distribution, Settlement Class Members will have an opportunity to comment on and/or object to the proposed plan.

Please keep all documentation that shows your purchases of Shell Eggs and Egg Products during the relevant time period for use in filing a claim later. Having documentation may be important to filing a successful claim.

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5. What is the effect of the Court's final approval of the Midwest, NFC, and UEP/USEM Settlement?

The Court has granted final approval of the Midwest, NFC, and UEP/USEM Settlements. These Settlements are binding upon you and all other members of the Settlement Class. By remaining part of the Midwest, NFC, and UEP/USEM Settlement, you have given up any claims against Midwest, NFC, and UEP/USEM relating to the claims made or which could have been made in this lawsuit. By remaining a part of the Midwest, NFC, and UEP/USEM Settlement, you will retain all claims against all other Defendants, named and unnamed.

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6. Who is included in the Sparboe Settlement as Amended?

The original Sparboe Settlement executed on June 8, 2009 defined the Sparboe Settlement Class substantially the same as the Classes under the Midwest, NFC, and UEP/USEM Settlements, as described above, except that the original Sparboe Class Period included only those persons or entities that purchased Shell Eggs or Egg Products directly from any Producer between January 1, 2000 and October 23, 2009. On August 28, 2013, Plaintiffs and Sparboe amended the Class Period of the Sparboe Settlement to also include purchases of Shell Eggs and Egg Products from October 24, 2009 through February 28, 2014 (the “First Sparboe Amendment”), providing for an extended Class Period. On February 28, 2014, the Court granted preliminary approval to the First Sparboe Amendment, and a Notice of the First Sparboe Amendment, dated February 28, 2014, was disseminated to the Class in April 2014.

On June 16, 2014, Plaintiffs and Sparboe agreed to a second amendment to the Sparboe Settlement to further extend the Class Period by including purchases of Shell Eggs and Egg Products from March 1, 2014 through July 30, 2014 (the “Second Sparboe Amendment”). On July 30, 2014, the Court granted preliminary approval to the Second Sparboe Amendment. All other provisions of the Sparboe Agreement are unchanged and remain binding on the Plaintiffs.

A copy of the Second Sparboe Amendment is available on the Court Documents page of this website.

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7. What does the Sparboe Settlement Provide?

The Sparboe Settlement is between Plaintiffs and Defendant Sparboe only; it does not affect any of the remaining non-settling Defendants, against whom this case continues. Under the Sparboe Settlement, Plaintiffs released Sparboe from all claims arising from the facts in Plaintiffs’ complaint. In exchange, Sparboe agreed to provide substantial and immediate cooperation with Plaintiffs, which the Court determined, in granting final approval to the Sparboe Settlement, conferred real and substantial benefits upon the Class. Plaintiffs included details obtained from Sparboe’s cooperation and relating to the conspiracy in their second amended consolidated complaint filed in December 2009 and the third amended consolidated complaint filed in January 2013. The Sparboe Settlement is based entirely on cooperation; there is no financial compensation component to the Sparboe Settlement.

Notice of the original Sparboe Settlement was sent to potential Class Members in September 2010. Objections to and exclusions from the Sparboe Settlement were due on November 16, 2010. The Court granted final approval to the Sparboe Settlement on July 16, 2012, finding the Settlement to be sufficiently fair, reasonable, and adequate to the Sparboe Settlement Class.

The Original Sparboe Settlement, the Class Notice of that Settlement, and the Order granting final approval of the Settlement are available on the Court Documents page of this website.

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8. What is the effect of the Court’s final approval of the Second Sparboe Amendment?

If you became a member of the Sparboe Settlement Class solely because of the extended Class Period under the Second Sparboe Amendment (i.e., you made no purchases of Shell Eggs or Egg Products directly from any Producer between January 1, 2000 and February 28, 2014, but purchased Shell Eggs or Egg Products between March 1, 2014 and July 30, 2014), and if you do not exclude yourself from the Class, you will be bound by the Sparboe Settlement. By remaining part of the Sparboe Settlement Class as amended you will give up any claims against Sparboe relating to the claims made or which could have been made in this lawsuit as provided in the Settlement Agreement, but you will retain all claims against all other Non-Settling Defendants.

If you were included in the Settlement Class as originally defined under the Sparboe Settlement, or as defined under the First Sparboe Amendment, and you did not exclude yourself, you are already bound by the terms of the Sparboe Agreement and have given up any claims you may have had against Sparboe relating to the claims made or which could have been made in this lawsuit as provided in the Settlement Agreement. You may not now exclude yourself.

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9. Who represents the Midwest, NFC, and UEP/USEM and Sparboe Settlement Classes?

The Midwest, NFC, and UEP/USEM and Sparboe Settlement Classes are represented by the following attorneys:

Steven A. Asher
WEINSTEIN KITCHENOFF & ASHER LLC
1845 Walnut Street, Suite 1100
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Michael D. Hausfeld
HAUSFELD LLP
1700 K Street NW, Suite 650
Washington, DC 20006

Stanley D. Bernstein
BERNSTEIN LIEBHARD LLP
10 East 40th Street, 22nd Floor
New York, NY 10016

Stephen D. Susman
SUSMAN GODFREY LLP
560 Lexington Avenue, 15th Floor
New York, NY 10022-6828

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10. How will the lawyers be paid?

The attorneys listed above and their respective firms are referred to as Class Counsel. The Court has awarded Class Counsel $1,314,552.62 collectively from the Midwest, NFC, and UEP/USEM Settlement Funds. Class Counsel also requested awards be paid to the Class Representatives who worked with Class Counsel on behalf of the entire Class. The Court awarded each individual Class Representative $25,000, for a total of $225,000. Class Counsel filed their motion on January 15, 2015. The Court granted the motion on July 5, 2016. The Motion for Reimbursement of Expenses and Incentive Awards to Class Representatives and Order granting the motion are available on this website under the "Court Documents" tab.

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11. When and where did the Court hold a hearing on the fairness of the Midwest, NFC, and UEP/USEM Settlements and the Second Sparboe Amendment?

The Court held a “Fairness Hearing” at 9:30 a.m. on May 6, 2015 at the following address:

United States District Court
James A. Byrne Federal Courthouse
601 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106-1797

The purpose of the Fairness Hearing was to: (a) determine whether the Midwest, NFC, and UEP/USEM Settlements are fair, reasonable, and adequate and whether the Court should enter judgment granting final approval of these Settlements; and (b) determine whether the Court should grant final approval to the Second Sparboe Amendment. You did not need to attend this hearing. You or your own lawyer may have attended the hearing if you wished, at your own expense.

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12. How do I object to the Midwest, NFC, and UEP/USEM Settlements or the Second Sparboe Amendment?

The deadline to object to the Midwest, NFC, and/or UEP/USEM Settlements (including the Motion for Reimbursement of Expenses and Incentive Awards to Class Representatives) was May 22, 2015. The deadline to object to the Second Sparboe Amendment was March 6, 2015. Additional details are available in the Notice.

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13. How do I exclude myself from the Settlements?

The deadline to request exclusion from the Midwest, NFC, and/or UEP/USEM Settlements was March 6, 2015. If your only purchases of Shell Eggs or Egg Products from any Producer were made on or after March 1, 2014, such that you became a member of the Sparboe Settlement Class solely because of the Second Sparboe Amendment, you could have requested exclusion from the Sparboe Settlement only if you submitted an exclusion by March 6, 2015. Additional details are available in the Notice.

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14. What happens if I did nothing?

If you did nothing, you will remain a member of the Midwest, NFC, and UEP/USEM Settlement Classes and the Sparboe Settlement Class as amended. As a member of these Settlement Classes, you will be represented by the law firms listed below, and you will not be charged a fee for the services of such counsel and any other class counsel. Rather, counsel will be paid, if at all, as allowed by the Court from some portion of whatever money they may ultimately recover for you and other members of the Settlement Class. If you want to be represented by your own lawyer, you may hire one at your own expense.

Steven A. Asher
WEINSTEIN KITCHENOFF & ASHER LLC
1845 Walnut Street, Suite 1100
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Michael D. Hausfeld
HAUSFELD LLP
1700 K Street NW, Suite 650
Washington, DC 20006

Stanley D. Bernstein
BERNSTEIN LIEBHARD LLP
10 East 40th Street, 22nd Floor
New York, NY 10016

Stephen D. Susman
SUSMAN GODFREY LLP
560 Lexington Avenue, 15th Floor
New York, NY 10022-6828

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