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News / Business / Clark County Business

Tuna, chicken settlement checks from Washington AG’s Office are legitimate – don’t throw them away

400,000 people across state getting $50 or $120 in settlement of price-fixing lawsuits with chicken, tuna producers

By Sarah Wolf, Columbian staff writer
Published: January 4, 2024, 6:05am

If you get a check in the mail from the Washington Attorney General’s Office, don’t throw it away. It’s not a scam, as feared by several who called The Columbian after the unexpected checks arrived.

The Attorney General’s Office mailed checks for $50 and $120 to 400,000 consumers across the state after settling a series of price-fixing lawsuits with chicken and tuna producers.

Checks were automatically distributed to eligible Washington residents after Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed lawsuits against more than 20 companies who sell canned chicken and tuna.

The office alleged that the companies secretly agreed to raise prices on their products. Not all the lawsuits have been settled but those that have will pay more than $40 million.

On Wednesday, Ferguson announced another settlement with House of Raeford Farms, which will pay a $460,000 settlement.

Two companies — Foster Farms and Wayne-Sanderson Farms — are still part of Ferguson’s price-fixing lawsuit. A trial is set for October 2024.

Checks for $50 were sent to single-person households and $120 were sent to households with two or more people.

The attorney general’s office started mailing checks Dec. 5. Those who haven’t received a check but believe they’re eligible can submit a claim by June 5 at the attorney general’s website: www.refundcheck.atg.wa.gov.

The refund eligibility was not tied to whether or not someone purchased these products, but rather to income. Eligible consumers must make no more than 175 percent of the federal poverty level, which is dependent on the number of family members in a home. For a family of four, it’s $52,500.

The goal is to send money to those most impacted by the price-fixing scheme, Ferguson said.

Those who received checks but aren’t eligible can either mail the check back or destroy it, according to a representative from the attorney general’s distribution administrator.

Background

The attorney general’s 2021 lawsuit alleged the chicken producers drove up their prices from at least 2008 through rigged contract bids, illegal exchange of information, coordinated industry supply reductions and manipulated prices — all to maximize profits.

“As a result of corporate greed and illegal price-fixing, Washingtonians paid more for chicken without realizing it,” Ferguson said in a statement Tuesday.

The companies represent 95 percent of the U.S. market for broiler chickens, which are grown for eating.

The attorney general also sued two tuna companies and the former CEO of a third for scheming to raise prices. The suits netted in $5.1 million.

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