Antitrust lawsuits accuse major US sugar companies of conspiring to fix prices

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MINNEAPOLIS — Three antitrust lawsuits filed by food businesses in federal court in Minnesota this week accuse some of the largest U.S. sugar-producing companies of conspiring to fix prices.

The lawsuits name United Sugars, which includes American Crystal Sugar and the Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative; Domino Sugar; Cargill; other producers, and a commodity data company. The plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuits include Great Harvest Bread in Duluth, Morelos Bakery in St. Paul and the Connecticut restaurant group WNT, the Star Tribune reported.

“Since at least 2019, the Producing Defendants have had an ongoing agreement to artificially raise, fix, stabilize or maintain Granulated Sugar prices in the United States,” one of the lawsuits alleges. “To effectuate this agreement, the Producing Defendants engaged in price signaling and exchanges of detailed, accurate, non-public, competitively sensitive information.”

The lawsuits, which make broadly similar claims, seek injunctions barring the sugar companies from engaging in illegal conduct and unspecified damages.

Minnesota grows more sugar beets than any other state. The sugar industry, which is dominated by a handful of large companies, has faced antitrust scrutiny for decades. A 1978 consent decree banned sugar companies from communicating about future prices or coordinating on sugar sales.

United Sugars, which is based in Edina, called the claims baseless.

“While it is our longstanding practice to not comment extensively on litigation, we believe this case has no merit, and we will vigorously defend ourselves from its baseless accusations,” the company said in a statement.

Minnetonka-based agribusiness giant Cargill also denied the allegations.

“We take pride in conducting our business with integrity,” Cargill said in a statement. “We compete vigorously but do so fairly, ethically and in compliance with the law.”

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