Kansas City, Kan.-based Associated Wholesale Grocers and potato industry defendants have resolved a lawsuit alleging price fixing by the United Potato Growers of America.
"All legal matters between Associated Wholesale Grocers Inc. and potato industry defendants, including United Potato Growers of America, have been successfully resolved," according to a statement from the potato group March 23. The group said the settlement with AWG was reached in November and is confidential.
A spokesperson for AWG and the company's Kansas City law firm, Stueve Siegel Hanson LLP, could not immediately be reached for comment.
A court order filed Nov. 16 in the U.S. District Court in Idaho dismissed the case against the Idaho and national United Potato Growers groups and numerous shippers.
The order, signed by U.S. District Court Judge B. Lyn Winmill, did not include a settlement amount.
"United Potato Growers of America is happy to have these legal matters behind us and is excited to now move forward in a positive direction for the benefit of our cooperative potato grower membership," the group said in the statement.
An earlier class action lawsuit involving the United Potatoes Growers of America was settled in June 2015, at which time the cooperative agreed to pay a total of $25 million to retailers and consumers to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging price fixing. AWG was not a part of that lawsuit, choosing to file a separate lawsuit in 2013.
In 2015, then United Potato Growers of America president and CEO Jerry Wright said, that despite negotiating the settlement, United Potato Growers of America did not participate in any illegal activity. Wright said the 2015 settlement of $25 million would be paid by potato growers and the potato industry, though he offered no specific details on how the cost was divided. To end the lawsuit, the cooperative agreed to not engage in preplanting acreage management for seven years.
The November 2016 settlement with AWG appears to bring to a close a troubled legal period for the cooperative that began in 2010, when the group was first hit with a lawsuit saying it and other companies engaged in "classic cartel behavior," conspiring to control potato supplies and fix prices at artificially high levels.