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$50, $120 checks coming to 400,000 Washington households from tuna, chicken lawsuit restitution

Bob Ferguson's office is providing $40.6 million in financial restitution to households whose income is at or below 175% of the federal poverty level.

SEATTLE — More than 400,000 Washington households will receive checks as a result of lawsuits filed by Attorney General Bob Ferguson against tuna and chicken providers for price-fixing conspiracies. 

Ferguson's office is providing $40.6 million in financial restitution to households whose income is at or below 175% of the federal poverty level. More than 1.2 million Washingtonians live in households that qualify.

Ferguson, who is a 2024 Washington state gubernatorial candidate, filed the lawsuits before announcing his bid for governor.

Single-person households will receive $50. Multi-person households will receive $120. The money will be in the form of mailed checks. The first round was sent on Dec. 5. All checks will be sent before Dec. 31.

Examples of those who will receive checks include: 

  • A family of five with a household income of less than $61,495;
  • A single parent raising three kids on an income of $52,500, or less;
  • A single parent with two children making less than $43,505 per year;
  • A single parent of one, or a retired couple living on two fixed incomes, that total less than $34,510; or
  • A retired individual who lives alone on a fixed income of less than $25,515 per year.

People who do not receive a check by the end of the year but believe they qualify can visit refundcheck.atg.wa.gov. They will have six months to complete a claims form.

Questions about eligibility or the claims process can be directed to 866-601-1516 or send an email to refundcheck@atg.wa.gov.

Ferguson's office recovered $35.5 million as a result of resolutions with 15 of 19 broiler chicken producers named in a 2021 price-fixing lawsuit. Those companies are: Tyson Foods Inc., Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., Sanderson Farms Inc., Perdue Farms Inc., Koch Foods Inc., Mountaire Farms Inc., Amick Farms LLC, George’s Inc., Peco Foods Inc., Fieldale Farms Corp., Case Foods Inc., Mar-Jac Poultry, Claxton Poultry Farms, Simmons Foods Inc., O.K. Foods Inc., Harrison Poultry Inc.

A trial against Foster Farms, Wayne-Sanderson Farms, and House of Raeford Farms is scheduled for October 2024.

KING 5 has reached out to the three companies that have not settled. As of the afternoon of Dec. 6, Foster Farms responded by saying the company does "not comment on matters of active litigation, and relies in full confidence on our state and federal judiciaries." 

Ferguson's office alleged that these 19 chicken producers drove up the price of chicken since 2008, causing consumers to overpay by millions. The lawsuit alleged a widespread conspiracy to inflate and manipulate prices, rig bids, exchange information and coordinate industry supply reductions to maximize profits. 

Another $5.1 million comes from cases against major tuna companies. Those include a $4.1 million resolution with StarKist, a $500,000 resolution with Chicken of the Sea, a $100,000 resolution with Bumble Bee Tuna CEO Christopher Lischewski, and a $450,000 in sanctions against StarKist parent company Dongwon.

Ferguson's office alleged executives at the three companies exchanged internal company policies and data.

KING 5 has reached out to the three tuna companies. 

StarKist provided the following statement, stating it entered into a settlement agreement with the state:

"We are pleased to resolve the Washington State litigation on mutually agreeable terms. This settlement is one of many that address disputes stemming from the actions of a former employee who left the company in 2013,” stated Scott Meece, SVP general counsel at StarKist Co. “Our company has settled claims with over 85% of direct purchasers and welcomes the opportunity to put the claims of the Washington AG behind us instead of spending time and money on a trial. We hope to resolve the remaining lawsuits under fair and reasonable terms.” 

According to Meece, "StarKist is committed to complying with competition laws and engaging in socially responsible and ethical commerce. We will continue to conduct our business with the utmost integrity, focusing on providing our customers and consumers with top-quality products at competitive prices.”

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