Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has settled the lawsuit he filed against a Minnesota-based egg producer in connection to pricing its eggs excessively high in March and April 2020.
Ellison's office alleged in its lawsuit against Sparboe Farms, which is based in Litchfield and Wayzata, that it tripled its egg prices in March 2020, the same time consumer demand for eggs skyrocketed as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.
The lawsuit said Sparboe Farms, which is one of the largest egg producers in the U.S., did not raise prices to recoup increased costs but rather sought "to take advantage of the increased demand for eggs due to the pandemic and profit from the crisis while it could, causing economic harm to Minnesota consumers."
The lawsuit said Sparboe made more than $3.5 million from egg sales in Minnesota that violated the terms of the executive order that prohibited raising prices on goods more than 20%. If Sparboe had charged people the average pre-pandemic price, it would have made about $1.4 million.
The Attorney General's Office said in a news release Monday it has resolved the lawsuit against Sparboe Farms, which has agreed to donate 90,000 dozen eggs (more than 1 million eggs in total) to nonprofits in Minnesota that work to combat hunger and food insecurity.
The terms of the consent judgment say Sparboe must donate the eggs within 18 months and the eggs must be the same quality of egg they'd sell at retail locations.
“During the COVID-19 crisis, I used the authority granted to me by executive order to ensure that Minnesotans were protected from pandemic profiteering on food and other essential items. We are committed to holding accountable those that sought to take advantage of consumer demand for essential goods during the pandemic," Ellison said in a statement. "This resolution both holds Sparboe accountable and serves the public interest by ensuring that one million eggs are provided to Minnesotans who need them most."
The resolution with Sparboe is the second resolution of actions taken against Minnesota egg producers related to egg pricing during the COVID-19 pandemic. On April 27, 2020, Ellison's office entered into an assurance of discontinuance with Forsman Farms related to its imposition of similar egg price increases in March and April of 2020.
Forsman Farms resolved the investigation by agreeing to re-invoice the orders that violated the executive order, the release said.