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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Cattle ranchers from three states have sued the nation's four largest meatpackers -- Excel Corp., ConAgra Beef Co., Farmland National Beef Packing Co. and IBP -- saying the companies engaged in insider trading, The Associated Press reports.
The suit, filed on Friday in federal court, alleges the packers didn't correct a USDA mistake on the reported price of boxed beef during the spring of 2001, which in turn allowed them to reduce the prices they paid ranchers for cattle over a 29-day period.
James O'Connor, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, estimates meatpackers made an extra $40 million because of the incorrect numbers, according to the AP.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of all cattle owners who sold livestock to the companies in April and May 2001.
"We can tell you we are disturbed by the claims apparently made in the suit," Gary Mickelson, a spokesman for IBP, which was recently acquired by Tyson Foods, told the AP. "We depend upon independent cattle producers to supply our plants and have no reason to hurt them."
Mark Klein, a spokesman for Excel, said the lawsuit was without merit and the company would defend itself.
Jim Herlihy, spokesman for ConAgra Beef, would not comment.
Tyson Foods did not immediately return phone calls to the AP.