On March 26, 2021, Southern District of Florida District Court Judge Cecilia Altonaga denied a motion to dismiss an antitrust class action alleging a conspiracy to fix the price of farm-raised Atlantic salmon globally.
According to the Plaintiffs’ Second Consolidated Amended Complaint, the Defendants engaged in a conspiracy to increase salmon prices by manipulating the NASDAQ Salmon Index that provides weekly spot market pricing for salmon in Norway. The NASDAQ Salmon Index was created in 2013 when the conspiracy is alleged to have begun. Because the majority of the world’s salmon comes from Norway, the NASDAQ Salmon Index serves as the benchmark for salmon pricing around the world.
Defendants are alleged to have coordinated to have their subsidiaries make spot market purchases at supra-competitive prices, thereby creating the appearance of greater consumer demand, which in turn drove the Index price upward. This allowed Defendants to charge artificially high prices globally.
The Court held that that the allegations of increased index prices, parallel price movements, and record profits during the class period were sufficient to allege Defendants’ “shift from competition to cooperation” when considered with other circumstantial evidence of a conspiracy. For example, the Complaint alleges that salmon prices rose notwithstanding declining production costs and a decrease in demand due to a Russian import ban. The Complaint further alleges that the Salmon producer Defendants had access to one another’s confidential pricing data through mutual participation in industry trade associations. The Court also noted the ongoing parallel antitrust investigations by the European Commission and Department of Justice.