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Norwegian Companies Farmed Atlantic Salmon Antitrust Class Action

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Farmed Atlantic Salmon Steak on Ice

Early on, the complaint for this class action says, “In February 2019, the European Commission announced that its antitrust enforcement agents had executed dawn raids on corporate offices and facilities” of companies that produce farmed Atlantic salmon, out of suspicions they may have violated antitrust laws. This class action seems to have grown out of that European action, bringing suit on behalf of American parties who were injured by the anticompetitive behavior.

The class for this action is all individuals and entities who bought farmed Atlantic salmon in the US directly from any of the Defendants or their co-conspirators, or their controlled subsidiaries, affiliates, or joint ventures, between July 1, 2015 and the present.

The defendants in this case include a number of Norwegian companies—Mowi ASA, Grieg Seafood, Leroy Seafood Group ASA, SalMar ASA, Bremnes Seashore AS, and Ocean Quality AS—and their subsidiaries. Some of the subsidiaries farmed fish in the US, Canada, the UK, and Chile. The complaint says that “Norwegian production is 78% of total northern hemisphere output…” The five Norwegian defendants “are in the top ten producers in Norway and together sell 57% of total Norwegian production.”

Although Norway is not a member of the European Union and its companies are therefore not subject to EU oversight, they had facilities in countries that are members. Those were the facilities that the European Commission raided.

The Commission sent a letter to at least one of the companies explaining the raids. It stated it had information “from different actors, operating at different levels in the salmon market, alleging that some Norwegian producers of farmed Norwegian Atlantic salmon participated in … different ways of price coordination in order to sustain and possibly increase the price of farmed Norwegian Atlantic salmon.

The letter also detailed some of the specific behavior it believed the companies had engaged in:

  • Coordinating sale prices and exchanging sensitive information.
  • Buying salmon from other companies when they attempted to sell it at lower prices.
  • Coordinating a strategy to raise spot prices of salmon to influence the prices in long-term contracts.

It’s not hard to see why fish producers want more control over pricing. Because of the need for freshness, Farmed Atlantic Salmon cannot be harvested before a buyer has been identified.” Also, there is a two- to three-year production cycle, and “harvestable fish must be sold before the next generation of fish can be introduced into the ocean cages. This means that a fixed volume of salmon must be moved into the market within a short period of time.”

Also, prices are instantaneously reported around the world. The complaint says, “Norwegian salmon farmers bear the typical risk of a commodity market, which includes substantial fluctuations in price as demand and available supply are reported on a historical, spot, and forward-looking basis.” The long production cycle also means that producers can’t tailor production to current demand.

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