Oct

24

DOJ and 13 States Sue to Protect Cattle Suppliers and Beef Consumers

Posted by : Matthew Wild | On : October 24, 2008

On October 20, 2008, the Antitrust Division, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming sued to enjoin JBS Beef’s acquisition of National Beef Packing in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.  (Beef Complaint; Beef Press Release)  The government alleges that the merger would combine the third and fourth largest U.S. beef packers, which would result in lower prices for cattle and higher prices for beef consumers.  This action is interesting in two respects.  First, one of the theories of competitive harm is that the beef packers will gain monopsony power.  While the monopsony theory is well established and has been pursued in Antitrust Division challenges to mergers (e.g., Cargill’s acquisition of Continental Grain’s Commodity Marketing Group), some academics reject it because it is inconsistent with the monopsonist’s economic interest to drive prices so low that suppliers exit.  Second, although venue and personal jurisdiction were available in any district where the companies did business, the government chose the Chicago as its forum.  It likely did so because it has received favorable treatment there in the past and Seventh Circuit cases are favorable to merger challenges.  For example, the government prevailed in United States v. UPM Kymmene Oyj (a case in which this author was trial counsel) even though the government’s case was at best shaky and viewed by many as without merit.

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