Former Washington state rancher and convicted scammer Cody Easterday has filed another lawsuit against Tyson Fresh Meats, this time claiming that the company violated antitrust laws and the Packers and Stockyards Act during their decade-long business relationship.
This means the plot thickens in an already complex legal web.
Easterday reported to federal prison in December in Los Angeles to serve an 11-year sentence after pleading guilty in a ghost-cattle wire fraud scheme. He was convicted of billing Tyson and another company $244 million for cattle that didn’t exist. Throughout their business relationship, court documents indicated that Easterday charged the companies for purchasing and feeding about 265,000 head of cattle.
This isn’t the first time Easterday has sued Tyson. In December, a breach-of-contract suit was filed against the company, alleging that Tyson failed to comply with a separate business deal. The suit reportedly claims $163 million in profits that were not split with Easterday for 65,000 head of cattle that Tyson allegedly sold to Nippon Ham.
The latest suit, filed earlier this week, claims Tyson facilitated unfair competition by, “the wielding of immense market power, resulting from acquisition and consolidation,” according to KOZE.com. Easterday is saying that Tyson Foods has so much market power in the Pacific Northwest that feeders have no choice but to sell their livestock to Tyson in deals that are not beneficial to producers.
According to court documents and information from previous court proceedings, Easterday and his business, Easterday Ranches Inc., agreed with Tyson Foods and another company to purchase and feed cattle on behalf of these companies.
Tyson and Agribeef are the only packers of fed cattle in the Pacific Northwest. AgriBeef’s cattle supply primarily comes from those raised by the company. Tyson accounts for about 80 percent to 85 percent of fed cattle purchased in the Northwest from 2006 to 2020.
According to reports on the lawsuit, Tyson required cattle feeders to carry the financial risk of feeding cattle until they reached market weight. The suit says that Easterday attempted to change the terms of his arrangement and renegotiate contracts, and Tyson exercised their market power, threatening to shut down their Pasco plant. Easterday’s suit claims that Tyson made similar threats to different producers, and when he attempted to find an alternative processor, there were no feasible options.
Easterday is seeking a jury trial, treble damages, and reimbursement for his legal expenses. He has also asked the courts to grant permanent injunctive relief against Tyson to prevent ongoing anticompetitive effects.
Tyson has not put out any public statements regarding the new lawsuit.
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