Attorneys general, including Wyo. eye JBS merger
Cheyenne – Assistant Deputy Attorney General Liz Gagen confirmed June 2 that the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office has joined counterparts from across the nation to take a look at the pending merger between JBS-Swift, National Beef Packing Co., Smithfield Beef Group and Fiver Rivers Ranch Cattle Feeding.
Unsure on the exact number of AG offices involved, Gagen said, “As of last week it was approximately 20.” Of the reasoning behind their decision to become involved she said, “We were just interested. It sounded like a lot of people were concerned.”
Gagen was unsure if her agency would have access to the same information now being reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), but referred the Roundup to the National Association of Attorneys General. Unfamiliar with this particular case, Emily Myers from the association said a process established 15 years ago allows parties to sign off on what’s called “pre-merger disclosure.” If the parties don’t agree Myers said discovery has to occur through a compulsory process, the courts direct discovery. Generally speaking, Myers said the information submitted to the DOJ is completely confidential, even from the attorneys general.
JBS-Swift spokesman Chandler Keys told the Roundup June 3 that he wasn’t aware of the DOJ or the state AGs contacting them for release of materials that have thus far been provided to the DOJ. Of the AGs involvement he said, “The vast majority get involved, they write a letter to DOJ and that’s about the end of it.”
Other attorneys general from across the nation have been making headlines in recent weeks with their intentions to review the merger. Oklahoma AG Drew Edmondson called the additional consolidation in the packing sector a “mega merger” and said it could have harmful effects on his state’s livestock producers. According to the Livestock Marketing Association, Edmondson said his state could be particularly impacted by the acquisition by JBS of Smithfield Beef Group’s Five Rivers Ranch Cattle Feeding, LLC, considered the world’s largest cattle feeding operation. That’s because Five Rivers operates five feedlots in southwest Kansas, and the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles. If the merger goes through, Edmondson wrote U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, “Oklahoma producers could see a packing market with fewer buyers, and one of these buyers may have a limited need to buy cattle because it owns the feedlots.”
North Dakota AG Wayne Stenehjem is also among those expressing concern noting the merger’s potential to reduce competition and in turn prices received for cattle.
According to R-CALF USA Vice President and Wheatland cattle feeder Randy Stevenson, state AGs can challenge the mergers if it’s approved by the DOJ.
Jennifer Womack is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at email@example.com.