A federal jury in Alabama returned a $1.28 billion verdict against
on Tuesday in a class-action suit about alleged price-fixing in the cattle industry.
The suit centered on Tyson's purchase of cattle through private contracts rather than through public auctions. The plaintiffs, which included six independent cattlemen, charged that Tyson manipulated prices by keeping "captive" stocks of cattle through these contracts. When prices of beef rose at auction, Tyson allegedly could keep its slaughterhouses going through these captive herds.
Tyson denied the charges, saying that the market sets the price of beef and that the contracts were used to keep its slaughterhouses operating "efficiently."
But the jury sided with the plaintiffs on all seven issues before them, according to David Domina, who represented the plaintiffs. Domina said he was pleased with the result.
"We frankly expected the jury would see this our way. We had a strong case to present," Domina said. "What
Tyson is doing is unlawful. They are not procuring cattle in accordance with the statute."
In a statement, Tyson called the verdict a "disappointment" and said it would appeal the decision.
"This is only a temporary legal setback," the company said. "We fully expect the jury's decision to be reversed."
Tyson's stock fell 17 cents, or 1%, to $16.21 in regular trading on Tuesday.