“The Checks Will Soon Be in the Mail,” may be a better headline.
An historic and record-setting food industry class action that began in July of 2007 is now approaching completion nine and one-half years later. Final Settlement payments to farmer/class members in the Southeast Milk Litigation have been authorized by Judge Ronnie Greer, US District Court, Eastern District of Tennessee, Greeneville Division. Judge Greer issued his Orders on December 6, 2016.
A total Settlement Fund of over $280 Million was reached in three different settlements: one with Dean Foods, the second with Southern Marketing Agency and related entities, and the third with Dairy Farmers of America and Related Entities. Payments began in January of 2013, and completed via annual payments.
In short, the final payments to farmer/class members in the Southeast Milk Litigation will shortly be in mailboxes, and should be received before or shortly after Christmas, 2016.
Farmers / Class members should be watching their mailboxes. Since previous payments have come in rather ordinary envelopes, recipients are advised to pay detailed attention to each envelope in their mailboxes, being careful to not lose Settlement payments with heavy mail volume common at this time of year. These are not electronic payments.
The class action began in July of 2007, when two original complaints were filed in US District Court, Middle District of Tennessee. One complaint was filed on behalf of co-op member farmers, and one on behalf of independent farmers (those not belonging to a co-op). The two complaints were consolidated in July of 2008 and redirected to the Eastern District of Tennessee, Greeneville Division, presided over by The Honorable Judge Ronnie Greer.
Farmer/Plaintiffs were represented by a team of antitrust attorneys from Baker-Hostetler, Washington, DC. Led by Robert Abrams, the team included Greg Commins, and Danyll Foix, and a host of others during the course of the litigation. Local plaintiff counsels in the District court included Thomas Jessee of Johnson City, and Steve Terry and Gary Brewer, Brewer & Terry of Morristown, TN. When the complaints were filed, the same attorneys were with Howrey LLP, a law firm which dissolved during the course of the litigation.
The amended complaint is a great summary and timeline of the activities which eventually led to the Dean Foods Settlement in January of 2012, (first payments took place in January of 2013) and the DFA/Related Entities Settlement in January of 2013. It should be noted that all defendants have fulfilled the terms of their settlement agreements, and that many (but not all) of the individuals named in the actions are no longer active in the named organizations.
During the course of the litigation, nearly 2 Million pages of legal documents were generated, many of which can be found at the litigation website.
With a 4-page Order of December 6, 2016, Judge Ronnie Greer, presiding Judge, authorized the fifth and final distribution of Dean Settlement funds. In a separate but parallel action, he authorized the distribution of the Residual DFA Funds in a 3-page Order. With these Orders entered on the Court’s record, Rust Consulting, Claims Administrator, will quickly begin writing and mailing checks to over 6,000 class members.
The ORDERS THEMSELVES FOLLOW:
First, The Order Authorizing Distribution of the Final Dean Foods Settlement Payment:
PAGE 2 _ ORDER, DEAN FOODS SETTLEMENT DISTRIBUTION
PAGE 3 -ORDER, DEAN FOODS SETTLEMENT DISTRIBUTION
PAGE 4 -ORDER, DEAN FOODS SETTLEMENT DISTRIBUTION
(The Judge’s signature, and then keep scrolling down for the DFA Payment Order.)
Second: ORDER Authorizing Distribution of the RESIDUAL DFA SETTLEMENT Funds:
PAGE 2: ORDER Authorizing Distribution of the Residual DFA SETTLEMENT Funds
Page 3: ORDER Authorizing Distribution of the RESIDUAL DFA SETTLEMENT Funds:
From having done extensive review of documents related to this class-action case, along with attending most of the courtroom hearings and then reporting on various matters related to this litigation, it is my fervent hope that all farmers make every effort to more fully understand the BIG BUSINESS of what happens to affect their milk checks.
If one wants to begin, they will read the 7-pages of legal documents above, then read the 60-page amended complaint , and then re-read them, and re-read them, and then re-read them again. Although these events described in these documents are now a part of dairy industry history, they will provide a foundation for understanding milk marketing. If a person does begin to read them, they need to remember that today’s markets will have changed, due to time, and the evolution of milk markets themselves.
Happy Reading! Be Watching for those checks!