Three poultry companies involved in a large acquisition will pay more than $84 million to settle claims that they colluded to drive down worker wages.
Wayne Farms, Sanderson Farms and Cargill Meat Solutions have agreed to a consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department over charges that they shared information about wage rates to drive down wages. Wayne Farms and Cargill, in a joint venture, have acquired Sanderson Farms in a $4.53 billion deal.
Under terms of the settlement, Cargill will pay $15 million, Sanderson Farms $38.3 million and Wayne Farms $31.5 million.
"Through a brazen scheme to exchange wage and benefit information, these poultry processors stifled competition and harmed a generation of plant workers who face demanding and sometimes dangerous conditions to earn a living," Doha Mekki of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division said in a statement quoted by Reuters.
The Justice Department also revealed that it had imposed some terms on the Sanderson Farms acquisition, including agreements that the new company will not be allowed to lower compensation for chicken farmers, nor retaliate against them for antitrust-related complaints.