Pacific Seafood/Trident deal back in the barrel? Suit against the sale alleges violation of monopoly laws.
A lawsuit has been filed against Pacific Seafood and Trident Seafood Corporation for allegedly violating federal anti-trust laws by Trident earlier ignoring a $1.8 million offer to buy Trident – nearly $800,000 less than an offer made earlier by Innovation Marine and Front Street Marine.
Attorneys for Innovation Marine and Front Street Marine contend the move was to solidify a fish processing monopoly along the Oregon Coast.
Here’s a reaction by Pacific Seafood’s attorney Dan Occhipinti:
Richard Carroll, an out-of-state investor backed by private equity interests, and Steven Webster, a Newport real estate developer, filed a lawsuit today against multiple seafood processors in an attempt to acquire properties along Newport’s “working waterfront.” The properties include the former Trident surimi plant that was scheduled to open next week. The future of that facility is now in doubt, with more than 140 jobs and a major market for local whiting fisherman at risk.
The lawsuit was filed by Portland plaintiff’s attorney Michael Haglund in the U.S. District Court in Eugene (Case No. 0:17-CV-00815). Named defendants include California Shellfish Company, Inc., Trident Seafoods Corporation, and Pacific Seafood Group, among others.
“We’re stunned that Haglund would file this just as the 2017 season is getting started,” said Heather Mann, Executive Director of the Midwater Trawlers Cooperative, which represents 24 trawl vessels, many of which participate in the West Coast whiting fishery and deliver their catch to Newport. “We are still digesting the complaint but it looks like it could hurt Newport whiting fishermen.”
The plaintiffs broadly allege that defendants conspired to deprive them of past opportunities to purchase waterfront properties. Allegations in the complaint date back as far as 2013. Webster’s company, Front St. Marine, LLC, recently purchased properties now occupied by Undersea Gardens and Seawater Seafoods Co.
The suit comes on the heels of the highly-publicized acquisition earlier this month of the former Trident facility. Trident announced in April that it would cease operations at the plant after years of financial losses. Pacific Seafood agreed to acquire, retrofit, and operate the facility in time for the 2017 season, but only if fishermen, the community, and the Oregon Department of Justice agreed.
Fishermen affected by potential closure unanimously supported the sale to Pacific Seafood, as did all major West Coast seafood processors. The Oregon Department of Justice also reviewed the proposal to keep the plant open and developed terms under which Pacific Seafood could acquire and operate the facility.
“The Newport fishing industry came together to support the surimi plant,” said Terry Thompson, Lincoln County Commissioner. “It’s frustrating to have a lawsuit introduced that could threaten a major source of income to the Newport area.”
The lawsuit filed earlier this evening may prevent Pacific Seafood from operating the surimi plant this season.
“This was a surprise lawsuit filed just as our team members are working around the clock to get this plant ready for the season,” said Dan Occhipinti, a spokesman for Pacific Seafood. “We made a commitment to Newport to do everything we can to keep the plant open. We don’t know yet know what effect this lawsuit is going to have.”
But the legal firm that filed the lawsuit contends that the sale of Trident to Pacific Seafood was a conspiracy to violate federal anti-trust laws and regulations. Here’s their side of the story.Innovation Marine Complaint