Frequently Asked Questions
- What is this Notice about?
- What is this lawsuit about?
- What are "Fresh Potatoes"?
- Why is this a class action and who is involved?
- Why is there a Settlement?
- Am I a class member?
- Who is not included in the classes?
- Who are the Defendants?
- What are my rights as a class member?
- What does the Settlement provide?
- How much money will I receive?
- How can I get money from the Settlement?
- When will I get benefits?
- What is the status of the case?
- What am I giving up if I stay in the classes?
- What happens if I did nothing?
- When did the Court approve the Settlement?
- Who represents the Classes?
- Why did I receive a Deficiency Notice?
- What if I don't have the information requested in my Deficiency Notice?
- I filed a claim in the Fresh Potatoes Direct Purchaser Settlement by accident; can I switch my earlier claim to the Indirect Purchaser Settlement?
- How will the lawyers be paid?
- Where can I get more information?
1. What is this Notice about?
The Notice is to inform you about a Settlement with multiple Defendants that may affect your rights, before the Court decides whether to approve the Settlement.
The United States District Court for the District of Idaho presides over this case. The case is called In re Fresh and Process Potatoes Antitrust Litigation, MDL No. 2186. The people that sued are called Plaintiffs and the people and companies they sued are called Defendants.
The Notice explains the lawsuit, the Settlement, and your legal rights. It also explains what benefits from the Settlement will be available, when they will be available, who is eligible for them, and how to obtain them.
2. What is this lawsuit about?
The lawsuit claims that Defendants and their alleged co-conspirators illegally formed a cartel to reduce the supply of potatoes with the goal of raising prices in violation of the antitrust laws. As a result, retail Fresh Potato purchasers may have paid more than was necessary.
The alleged conspiracy was orchestrated by competitors in the potato growing, packing, processing, and marketing industry. These competitors included "grower defendants," "shed and marketing defendants," "dehydrator defendants," and the potato cooperatives to which they belonged ─ the United Potato Growers of Idaho ("UPGI"), the United Potato Growers of America ("UPGA"), and United II Potato Growers of Idaho ("United II"). A complete list of the Defendants is provided at Question 8.
Plaintiffs allege that these Defendants reduced the potato supply by agreeing to limit the number of potato acres planted each year and to divert Fresh Potatoes into the processing market, and by manipulating the supply of potatoes placed in storage after harvest. Plaintiffs also allege that the Defendants agreed to minimum Fresh Potato prices. Defendants' agreements were facilitated by weekly state and national conference calls among themselves and others.
The Defendants deny that they acted unlawfully or engaged in any wrongdoing.
To obtain more information about the claims in this lawsuit, you can view the complaint and other court documents in this case on the Court Documents tab.
3. What are "Fresh Potatoes"?
Fresh Potatoes are potatoes grown in the United States and planted exclusively for and sold to the Fresh Potato market. Fresh Potatoes do not include process potatoes, which are sold for further processing, including dehydrating, freezing, canning, chipping, dicing, slicing, chopping, and packaging.
4. Why is this a class action and who is involved?
In a class action, one or more people called "named plaintiffs" or "class representatives" sue on behalf of other people who have similar claims. The people with similar claims are "class members" who, together, make up the "class." A class action resolves the issues for all class members, except for those who exclude themselves from the class.
In this case, the Court appointed named plaintiffs Jonathan Rizzo; Trang Nguyen; Kelly Tschantz; John Brashears; Jeffrey Keel; Crystal Tschantz; Gary Tschantz; BreAnne Krabbenhoft; Paul Langer; Kory Pentland; Abigail Rizzo; Julie Ewald; Brendan Farrell; Robert Finch; Benedetto DiLorenzo; Suzy Ivey McCrory; Jeff Potvin; Navtej Bhandari; and Joyce Rizzo as class representatives in this case. The named plaintiffs represent two classes ─ an Injunctive Relief Class and a Monetary Relief Class. The classes are described in further detail below.
5. Why is there a Settlement?
The Court has not found in favor of Plaintiffs or Defendants. The Plaintiffs and Defendants have agreed to this Settlement which, if it is approved, will bring the claims against the Defendants to an end. That way, the Plaintiffs and Defendants avoid the uncertainty of continuing the case and the cost of further litigation, and class members will get the benefits of the Settlement. The class representatives and their attorneys think the Settlement is in the best interests of the classes.
6. Am I a class member?
In general, those who purchased Fresh Potatoes from a retail establishment in Arizona, California, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, or Wisconsin may be a member of the Injunctive Relief and Monetary Classes if they meet the following definition:
All individuals and entities who purchased fresh potatoes from retailers in Arizona, California, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, and Wisconsin for end use and not for resale, between October 14, 2004 and April 10, 2015.
Please be advised that there can only be one eligible class members per household.
7. Who is not included in the classes?
The classes do not include:
- their alleged co-conspirators;
- all present or former parents, predecessors, subsidiaries or affiliates of Defendants;
- all governmental entities; and
- any judicial officer to whom this case is assigned.
8. Who are the Defendants?
The Defendants are:
- United Potato Growers of America, Inc.;
- United Potato Growers of Idaho, Inc.;
- Wada Farms, Inc.;
- Wada Farms Potatoes, Inc.;
- Wada Farms Marketing Group, LLC;
- Wada-Van Orden Potatoes, Inc.;
- Albert Wada;
- Blaine Larsen Farms, Inc,;
- Blaine Larsen;
- Potandon Produce L.L.C.;
- Cornelison Farms, Inc.;
- Keith Cornelison;
- Michael Cranney d/b/a Cranney Farms;
- Snake River Plains Potatoes, Inc.;
- Driscoll Potatoes, Inc.;
- Lance Funk d/b/a Lance Funk Farms;
- Rigby Produce, Inc.;
- Pleasant Valley Potato, Inc.;
- Kim Wahlen;
- Raybould Brothers Farms LLC;
- Idahoan Foods, LLC;
- United II Potato Growers of Idaho, Inc.;
- R.D. Offutt Co.;
- Ronald D. Offutt, Jr.; and
- each of their corporate parents, subsidiaries, and affiliated companies.
9. What are my rights as a class member?
A class member has the right to: (1) if you did nothing, you will not receive a payment and you waived any rights to pursue a later lawsuit of your own against the Defendants; (2) if you submitted a claim form on or before October 16, 2015, you can receive a payment from the Settlement Fund; (3) you could have excluded yourself from the Settlement if you submitted your documentation on or before October 16, 2015; (4) you had the right to object to the Settlement if you filed your objection with the court on or before October 16, 2015; or (5) you could have attended the Court's Fairness Hearing that was held on December 3, 2015 to speak in support of or against the Court's final approval of the Settlement.
10. What does the Settlement provide?
The agreed upon injunctive relief ends Defendants' use of agreements amongst themselves to restrict the supply of Fresh Potatoes. Thus, Defendants are prohibited from participating in agreements setting the number of potato-plantable acres or otherwise setting the amount of potatoes that any potato producer will grow. In addition, the Co-Op Defendants and their successor entities will register to do business as a "cooperative" in the 14 states and will work with qualified antitrust compliance counsel to ensure their compliance with applicable law. They also will adopt membership rules requiring an agreement to abide by these rules. The rules expire after seven years.
In addition, Defendants will pay $5,500,000 into a Settlement Fund. The Settlement Fund will be used to pay (1) the Court-approved Notice and costs of administration; (2) attorneys' fees, authorized service awards, if any, and litigation expenses; and (3) any Court-approved administrative expenses involved in distributing funds to class members. The balance of the Settlement Fund after these payments will be distributed to class members who file valid claims.
As a Settlement class member, you gave up or "released" your claims against the Defendants and the other Releasees. The releases are described in more detail in the Settlement Agreement and in FAQ 14, below. You can view or download a copy of the Settlement Agreement on the Court Documents tab.
11. How much money will I receive?
Class members who submitted a valid claim form on or before the October 16, 2015 filing deadline were mailed a check for $30.49 per claim. Please be advised that only one claim per household will be accepted.
12. How can I get money from the Settlement?
We are no longer accepting claims relating to this matter. The Claim Form filing deadline was October 16, 2015.
13. When will I get benefits?
The injunctive relief discussed in FAQ 10 commenced on April 10, 2015 with the parties' execution of the Settlement Agreement, although it is contingent upon final Settlement approval. The cessation of the anticompetitive planting agreements, supported by increased antitrust compliance review, will benefit all class members in the form of more competitive Fresh Potato prices at the store.
The court approved the Settlement and the Claims Administrator made the distribution payments to eligible Class Members on August 2, 2016. These payments are no longer valid because the stale date has passed. If you would like to request a reissue for this check, please send an email to info@PotatoesIndirectPurchaseAction.com.
14. What is the status of the case?
The Claims Administrator began making payments on August 2, 2016. However, these payments are no longer valid.
15. What am I giving up if I stay in the classes?
Unless you excluded yourself on or before the October 16, 2015 Exclusion deadline, you will remain in the Classes, and that means that, upon "Final Approval," you will release all "Released Claims" (as defined below) against the "Releasees" (as defined below).
"Released Claims" means any claims made or that could have been made arising from the facts alleged in this lawsuit, including any conduct relating to planting, growing, supplying, producing, selling, marketing, or distributing Fresh Potatoes produced in the United States that may have occurred or did occur from January 1, 2003 through April 10, 2015. Released claims do not include claims based solely on purchases of Fresh Potatoes made in states other than Arizona, California, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, and Wisconsin.
- Each Defendant, and its parent(s), subsidiaries, and affiliated companies;
- All past and present members of UPGA, UPGI, and United II;
- The past and present officers, directors, employees, agents, insurers, attorneys (excluding the Jones Waldo Law Firm), and other representatives of UPGA, UPGI, and United II; and
- The predecessors, successors, heirs, executors, administrators, and assigns of each Defendant, UPGA, UPGI, and United II.
"Final Approval" will occur when an Order entered by the Court approving the Settlement becomes final and not subject to appeal.
If you are a member of the Classes, all of the Court's orders apply to you and legally bind you. The Settlement Agreement describes the Releases, so please read it carefully. The Settlement Agreement and the Releases are available on the Court Documents tab.
16. What happens if I did nothing?
If you are a class member and did nothing, you did not receive any money from the Settlement and any claims you had against the Defendants and the other Releasees based on the allegations in this case will be released unless you separately excluded yourself (see FAQ 15). The injunctive relief contained in the Consent Order will take effect upon the Settlement's final approval.
17. When did the Court approve the Settlement?
The Court held a Fairness Hearing at 3:30pm on December 3, 2015, in Courtroom 3 of the United States District Court for the District of Idaho, 550 W. Fort Street, Boise, Idaho 83724. At this Hearing, the Court entered the Consent Order Granting Final Approval of Class Action Settlement for both the Direct and Indirect Plaintiffs on December 14, 2015. Copies of those Orders can be found by accessing the Court Documents page.
At this hearing, the Court considered the Settlement and determined that it was fair, reasonable, and adequate. The Court also considered the plan of allocation and whether to award payments to the named plaintiffs for their work in this case and attorneys' fees and expenses to Class Counsel. If there were written objections, the Court considered them at the hearing.
18. Who represents the Classes?
The Court appointed the following law firms as Class Counsel to represent the Classes:
One Penn Plaza, 49th Floor
New York, NY 10119
|GLANCY PRONGAY & MURRAY LLP
1808 Sixth Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
19. Why did I receive a Deficiency Notice?
You received the Deficiency Notice because your file was incomplete. The letter you received informed you of your specific deficiency. Please review the letter carefully, complete the requested sections and return it to: Fresh Potatoes Direct Purchaser Settlement Administrator c/o KCC Class Action Services, P.O. Box 40007, College Station, TX 77842-4007.
20. What if I don't have the information requested in my Deficiency Notice?
To be eligible for this settlement, claimants must provide a summary of purchases that they can support with documentation if requested. If you did not respond to the Deficiency Notice on or before the due date on your letter, your claim may be denied.
21. I filed a claim in the Fresh Potatoes Direct Purchaser Settlement by accident; can I switch my earlier claim to the Indirect Purchaser Settlement?
You had until October 16, 2016 to file or update your claim in this matter. If you filed a claim in the Fresh Potatoes Direct Purchaser Settlement by accident, your claim will be denied.
22. How will the lawyers be paid?
You do not need to separately pay Class Counsel. Class Counsel received an award not to exceed 30% of the Settlement Fund for attorneys' fees, as well as reasonable litigation and claims administration expenses. Any payments to the attorneys were subject to Court approval and were paid from the Settlement Fund.
23. Where can I get more information?
The Notice summarizes the Settlement. You may also wish to review this website, which contains more information about and documents relating to the case, including court documents. You may also obtain more information by calling the toll-free helpline at 1-866-888-1509 or sending an email to: info@PotatoesIndirectPurchaseAction.com
or by writing to the Claims Administrator at:
Potatoes Antitrust Case Claims Administrator
c/o KCC Class Action Services
P.O. Box 30190
College Station TX 77842-3190
PLEASE DO NOT CONTACT THE COURT OR THE COURT CLERK'S OFFICE TO INQUIRE ABOUT THIS SETTLEMENT OR THE CLAIM PROCESS.
You also may seek the advice and counsel of your own attorney at your own expense, if you desire.