April 17 (Reuters) - JBS SA has agreed to pay $25 million to commercial beef purchasers that accused the meat-packing company of conspiring with industry rivals to restrict market supply in order to keep prices artificially high.
The proposed settlement in Minnesota federal court was disclosed on Friday from plaintiffs' lawyers representing a class of businesses that bought beef for food preparation since 2015.
It is the second deal that the Brazilian beef giant and its U.S. units have struck in the case, after they agreed last year to pay $52.5 million to grocers and other plaintiffs that make up the "direct" beef purchaser class.
The new settlement, subject to a judge's review and approval, requires JBS to cooperate in ongoing cases against corporate defendants that have not settled, including Cargill Inc and Tyson Foods Inc.
"This cooperation is valuable and will afford access to transactional data, documents, witnesses, and other information without further litigation and expensive discovery — a significant class-wide benefit," the plaintiffs' lawyers said in their request for preliminary approval of the deal.
JBS and lawyers for the company on Monday did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment. JBS denied liability as part of the settlement.
Lawyers for Cargill and Tyson and representatives from the companies either declined to comment or did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
JBS and other suppliers were sued in a series of cases alleging price-fixing in various meat markets. JBS has paid tens of million of dollars to resolve claims from pork purchasers.
In the beef case, commercial plaintiffs including Wisconsin-founded sandwich and soup shop Erbert & Gerbert's Inc alleged JBS and other meat packers conspired since 2015 to fix the prices of beef.
The plaintiffs' lawyers said the settlement was "the product of extensive and vigorous arm's-length negotiations."
The case is In re: Cattle and Beef Antitrust Litigation, U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, No. 0:22-md-03031-JRT-JFD.