On behalf of a putative nationwide class of indirect potato purchasers, a San Francisco restaurateur has sued a number of potato industry participants, including co-operatives, growers, packers, and distributors, alleging that they have conspired since 2006 to control and reduce the supply of potatoes in an effort to keep crop prices high. Florez v. Idahoan Foods, LLC, No. 10-3984 (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Cal., filed September 3, 2010). The complaint refers to specific meetings of “cartel” members and discusses newspaper articles comparing the cooperative venture to OPEC, the oil-producing country organization that controls output and pricing in that industry. Member growers purportedly reduced their acreage, in some instances plowing under crops already grown, and submitted to audits to confirm that they were complying with production limits.  

Alleging that class members were harmed by paying “supracompetitive prices for potato products during the class period, higher than that which they would have paid in the absence of the contract, combination, and conspiracy,” the complaint brings causes of action under the Sherman Act and the California Business and Professions Code and Unfair Competition Law. The plaintiff seeks to certify a class, a declaration that the defendants violated the law, treble damages, costs, attorney’s fees, and injunctive relief.