Washingtonians to get $40 million back after state wins lawsuits over chicken, fish price fixing

Attorney General Bob Ferguson's office is taking action following successful antitrust lawsuits against major chicken and tuna corporations found guilty of price-fixing, with $40.6 million allocated for financial restitution to aid low-income households across Washington.

Approximately 402,200 households in Washington, comprising over 1.2 million residents, are slated to receive checks following these lawsuits, targeting those with incomes at or below 175% of the federal poverty level. The distribution began on December 5, with all checks expected to be dispatched by December 31.

"When powerful interests break the law and harm Washingtonians, my office holds them accountable," Ferguson stated. "Washington families were cheated by corporate price-fixing conspiracies they knew nothing about – and now those most severely impacted are receiving checks from my office."

The restitution aims to alleviate financial strains, especially during the holiday season, offering $50 checks to single-person households and $120 for multi-person households. Eligible individuals who do not receive a check by the year's end but believe they qualify can visit refundcheck.atg.wa.gov within six months to claim their share of the funds.

The checks, arriving in envelopes resembling provided samples, signify the official mailer from the Attorney General's Office. While approximately 134,100 single-person households will receive $50, and 268,100 multi-person households will get $120, a portion of $1.7 million remains reserved for qualifying households that may not initially receive checks.

For queries about eligibility or the claims process, individuals can contact (866) 601-1516 or email refundcheck@atg.wa.gov.

Eligibility and Lawsuits

The restitution payments focus on aiding those least equipped to handle the aftermath of price-fixing schemes. The $40.6 million derives from Ferguson's successful lawsuits against broiler chicken and tuna corporations, with $35.5 million retrieved from 15 of the 19 broiler chicken producers named in a 2021 lawsuit.

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Ferguson's lawsuit asserts that these chicken producers, accounting for 95% of broiler chickens sold nationwide, engaged in a conspiracy to inflate prices since at least 2008, violating state antitrust laws. The ongoing legal battle continues against the remaining three co-conspirators: Foster Farms, LLC; Wayne-Sanderson Farms, Inc.; and House of Raeford Farms, Inc., scheduled for trial in October 2024.

Additionally, funds amounting to more than $5.1 million stem from cases against major tuna companies, including resolutions with StarKist, Chicken of the Sea, former Bumble Bee Tuna CEO Christopher Lischewski, and sanctions against StarKist's parent company, Dongwon.

Executives from these companies were found to have engaged in clandestine communications and meetings to exchange internal company policies and data, leading to artificial price increases on canned tuna.

Assistant Attorneys General and supporting staff from Ferguson's Antitrust Division are actively handling these cases for Washington.

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For further information on eligibility and claims, visit refundcheck.atg.wa.gov or contact (866) 601-1516.