Morning Star asks to retry the bribery course of

Tomato Company wants to reopen lawsuit against competing producers.

Morning Star Packing Co. of Williams, Calif., Is trying to reanimate an antitrust and extortion lawsuit in the US 9th Court of Appeals alleging that a Los Gatos tomato product from Huron, Calif., A competing tomato processor, was conspiring to price and reduce competition. The company said a lawsuit was warranted.

US District Judge Kimberly Mueller in Sacramento, appointed by former US President Barack Obama, dismissed the lawsuit in 2019 after finding that Los Gatos was not part of a bribery program and could not be held liable for any damage. Morning Star claims, however, that while its competitor was not directly involved in the crimes, Los Gatos committed other acts of conspiracy among tomato processors that, according to the bribe, “would not have been possible without bribery.”

The lawsuit came about after several California tomato companies worked together between 2005 and 20 to undermine Morning Star’s dominance of the market. “Bribery was only one of the tools used to achieve the essential nature and scope of the conspiracy. It was about illegally manipulating the tomato market for their benefit and my client’s harm, ”said Dale Campbell, a lawyer for the company, during a lawsuit.

Photo by Wang Weijia on Unsplash

Los Gatos countered that the complaint was rejected because the company did not benefit from bribes paid to buyers by another processor, and their efforts were halted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) thorough investigation into the Carried out thorough search warrants found nothing of interest. Morning Star disagreed.

“Los Gatos has teamed up with two other tomato processors to form an export group that allegedly aims to improve access to international markets, but gave members the ability to set prices in the domestic market and share customers to reduce competition,” it said continued in the lawsuit. One of the members of the export group, SK Foods of Williams, Calif., Paid bribes to buyers in Nabisco, Frito-Lay, Kraft, Safeway, and other businesses to ensure they would buy the company’s tomato paste. “

Several actors in the bribery program have pleaded guilty, including Scott Salyer, CEO of SK Foods, who was sentenced to six years in prison in 2013. Morning Star filed lawsuits against everyone involved in exporting the products and all but the complaint against Los Gatos were settled. The plaintiff now asks the 9th circuit to take up the complaint again and let a jury decide on the result. Morning Star believes a jury will find that Los Gatos indirectly benefited from the conspiracy.

“Without Los Gatos, SK Foods would not have joined the export group and its activities would not have resulted in any financial gain for the other members,” Campbell said during a hearing. “If that hadn’t happened, the defendant wouldn’t have made a profit of $ 7.5 million,” he said.

Charles Jaeger, attorney for Los Gatos, replied, “Since they have no evidence that Los Gatos participated in the bribery or consented to the bribe, they must merge the two conspiracies: the price-fixing conspiracy and the bribery conspiracy. It’s implausible and speculative. “


The tomato processor wants to revive the conspiracy lawsuit

Morning Star Packing Company et al. Los Gatos et al

Morning Star Packing Co. v SK Foods, LP

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