Albertson's, the giant supermarket chain, filed a federal suit Friday accusing the Western Dairymen Cooperative and Meadow Gold Dairies of price fixing.
The two defendants account for approximately 80 percent of all wholesale sales of dairy products in the Great Basin area, the suit says - more than $150 million worth of products in and from Utah yearly.It defines the area involved as the state of Utah; Clark, Elko, Lincoln and White Pine counties, Nev.; Lincoln and Uintah counties, Wyo.; and Bannock, Bear Lake, Bingham, Bonneville, Caribou, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, Oneida and Power counties, Idaho.
The action came a month after Western and Meadow Gold agreed to pay $250,000 each to settle state civil suits against them, which were filed the same day in 3rd Circuit Court. The defendants did not admit guilt but agreed to pay.
Salt Lake lawyer Richard W. Giauque filed the latest suit in U.S. District Court, where it was assigned to Judge David K. Winder.
The consent decrees signed by the state and the defendants when the civil suits were settled said state investigative files would be kept secret unless they are made part of a suit or to force compliance with the decree or if a court orders their release.
Friday's suit asks the court to order the attorney general to turn over "files and all information and documents . . . in connection with its investigation and prosecution."
Albertson's, based in Boise, asks for $2 million in damages, to be trebled under antitrust laws, to a total of $6 million.
The suit says that around August 1986, Western Dairymen and Meadow Gold agreed to fix prices in the area. From 1986 through 1988, Albertson's bought more than $37 million worth of dairy products from the defendants for resale in Utah and southeastern Idaho.
According to the suit,the dairymen's cooperative and Meadow Gold agreed that on Sept. 1, 1986, Western would raise its price of processed dairy products by 10 cents per gallon and Meadow Gold would match the increases.
"Meadow Gold also agreed with WDCI (the cooperative) to implement on Sept. 15, 1986, another price increase and WDCI agreed that it would subsequently match the increase initiated by Meadow Gold," the suit says.
In addition to the $6 million damages, Albertson's also seeks a court order to prevent price fixing in the future.