Pilgrim’s Pride has agreed to pay $75 million to settle price-fixing claims made in a lawsuit brought by the chicken industry giant's customers in Illinois.

The company made the announcement in a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission in which Pilgrim’s said it does not admit any liability for the claims alleged by purchasers in the antitrust civil litigation in federal court in Illinois, but that “it believes a settlement was in the best interests of the company and its shareholders.”

The amount of the settlement is the largest so far announced in the civil case. Smaller chicken producers Fieldale Farms, Amick’s, George’s and Peco Foods also have settled with plaintiffs for a total of about $15 million.

The latest announcement comes after Pilgrim’s, whose majority owner is Brazil-based JBS S.A., agreed in October to pay $110.5 million to settle federal charges of price-fixing.

“Pilgrim’s is committed to fair and honest competition in compliance with U.S. antitrust laws,” Fabio Sandri, Pilgrim’s CEO, said then. “We are encouraged that today’s agreement concludes the Antitrust Division’s investigation into Pilgrim’s, providing certainty regarding this matter to our team members, suppliers, customers and shareholders.”

The lawsuit in Illinois is continuing with defendants including major chicken producers Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms, Sanderson Farms, and Mountaire Farms.

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The companies have denied that their “production decisions were coordinated or made pursuant to a conspiracy or agreement,” according to a December court filing in the Illinois litigation.

Arguing in court papers for approval of the Peco and George’s settlements in December, commercial and institutional indirect purchaser plaintiffs (CIIPPs) noted that those two companies have larger market shares than Fieldale and Amick’s, which had previously settled.

“The increasing value of these settlements demonstrate that CIIPPs’ litigation strategy has been successful,” they said in their filing.

Meanwhile, ten chicken industry executives have been indicted on charges of price-fixing and bid-rigging for broiler chicken products from at least 2012 until at least early 2019. At this point, trial is scheduled for August.

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