US seafood company Euclid Fish Company has filed a class action lawsuit against multiple salmon farming companies, alleging price fixing in the US market.
Among the defendants in the suit are Mowi, Leroy Seafood Group, Grieg Seafood, SalMar, Bremnes Seashore and several associated companies.
Euclid Fish Company's attorney Robert Gilbert told IntraFish he couldn't comment further on the case beyond what was already included in a lawsuit filed Tuesday with a US district court in Florida.
Grieg Seafood CEO Andreas Kvame confirmed to IntraFish the company has received the lawsuit and is looking into it.
"We have registered it, and we're looking into it, as well as collaborating with the European Commission in their investigation," Kvame said.
Ola Helge Hjetland, group communications director for Mowi told IntraFish the company is aware of the lawsuit, and is denying the allegations.
"Mowi has not been involved in price fixing or other anti-competitive conduct, and believe that the allegations are unfounded," Hjetland said.
The suit alleges that beginning in July, 2015, or earlier, salmon farmers and co-conspirators entered into and engaged "in a contract, combination, or conspiracy with regards to farm-raised salmon and products derived therefrom in unreasonable restraint of trade in violation of sections of the Sherman Act."
"The lawsuit is based on the European Commission's investigation that started in February," Kristina Furnes, global communications manager at Grieg Seafood, told IntraFish.
"We are not aware of any anti-competitive behavior, neither in Norway, the EU or the USA."
The price-fixing conspiracy, Euclid alleges in court documents, included salmon farming companies sharing competitively sensitive information among themselves and participating in meetings to fix, increase, maintain, or stabilize prices.
Euclid cites a similar ongoing investigation in Europe in which the European Commission is exploring whether salmon farmers are or have participated in anti-competitive agreements and practices to coordinate prices.
The fill list of defendants includes: Mowi ASA; Marine Harvest USA; Marine Harvest Canada, Inc.; Ducktrap River of Maine LLC; Grieg Seafood ASA; Grieg Seafood BC Ltd; Bremnes Seashore AS; Ocean Quality AS; , Ocean Quality North America Inc., Ocean Quality USA Inc; Ocean Quality Premium Brands, Inc; SalMar ASA; , Leroy Seafood Group ASA; Leroy Seafood USA Inc.; and Scottish Sea Farms Ltd.
Chilean salmon farming firms are not named in the lawsuit. In 2018, Chile supplied more than 160,000 metric tons of Atlantic salmon to the US market, and Norway supplied over 54,000 tons.
Structure encourages price fixing
The suit alleges that the structure of the salmon farming sector and other characteristics of the market make it conducive to anti-competitive conduct.
Specifically, the court documents cite barriers to entering the salmon farming industry as one factor contributing to potential cartel-type behavior among existing companies. Documents also point to the commodity nature of farmed salmon and Norway's dominance as a global provider as justifications for the suit.