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C.H. Robinson calls lawsuit ‘meritless’

In response to a lawsuit filed against C.H. Robinson claiming that the firm engaged in illegal business activities, the typically tight-lipped company issued a relatively lengthy denial stating that the complaint is “meritless” and filled with “blatant mischaracterizations and fabrications.”  

The CHR response also theorized that the suit was filed so that some growers “could avoid paying their debts” to the firm.

According to press reports, the lawsuit was filedby a group of farmers in mid-January in federal court in Minnesota asking for a total of $1.1 billion for allegedly overcharging shipping costs while pocketing the additional profits and underpaying farmers for various types of produce from both North America and South America.

The lawsuit alleges “freight topping,” stating that CHR and its Robinson Fresh division regularly overcharged freight costs, took profits and failed to disclose those profits, which, the suit claims, violates provisions in the federal Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act.

The lawsuit reportedly claims that these freight profits exceeded $1,000 per load of produce.

The lawsuit has not been given class action status yet, but the plaintiffs have requested it, according to published reports. If granted, many other growers could join the suit.

Contacted for comment, CHR released a statement, noting its typical reluctance to do so. It follows in its entirety. 

“C.H. Robinson usually doesn’t comment on pending litigation; however, we feel it is important to share our views on this. First, we are proud of our longstanding relationships with growers throughout the world. The complaint was designed to capture media attention, and itcontains an enormous amount of self-serving falsehoods as well as blatant mischaracterizations and fabrications about our company, teams and the actual agreements signed by the growers themselves.It is important to note that the lawsuit has not been certified as a class action at this time, and C.H. Robinson will oppose any attempt to certify it as such.We deny any and all allegations of wrongdoing and look forward to vigorously defending our actions, as well as filing legitimate counterclaims against the growers.  

“C.H. Robinson loaned several of the growers listed in the complaint money to finance their businesses. Now that the money is due to be repaid, these growers are using this complaint to avoid paying their debts. C.H. Robinson will assert its right to collect the significant amounts it is owed by the growers.  

“C.H. Robinson always complies with federal statutes and state regulations; the company did not violate any express or implied duties to the growers. In fact, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) division conducted an onsite, seven-day investigation into the allegations contained in the complaint; this is standard protocol in instances like this. C.H. Robinson cooperated and supported their thorough investigation and at no time during or after the investigation, did the USDA PACA division advise of any irregularities or take any disciplinary actions against C.H. Robinson as a result of their investigation.”

The statement also included a direct quote from Michael Castagnetto, president of Robinson Fresh, who said,“We are proud of the work we do with our teams, growers, and customers throughout the world, and we look forward to putting this entirely meritless complaint behind us.”

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