C.H. Robinson speaks out about lawsuit, calls allegations "blatant mischaracterizations"

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C.H. Robinson speaks out about lawsuit, calls allegations

A US$1.1 billion class-action lawsuit has been filed by a group of farmers against C.H. Robinson and its subsidiary Robinson Fresh - a global shipping company - for allegedly overcharging farmers, reports Produce Blue Book. Filed mid-January, this development comes as a direct claim made against Robinson for regularly overcharging freight costs and practicing "freight topping".

The move has not been certified as a class-action at this time. Robinson said it would "vigorously defend" its actions and "oppose any attempt to certify" the legal action as a class-action lawsuit.

While the company usually holds its tongue on pending legislation, it spoke out about the lawsuit, saying it feels "it is important to share" its views on the situation. The statement released by C.H. Robinson states that the company "always complies with federal statutes and state regulations".

It also said that the complaint "was designed to capture media attention" and "contains 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".

The lawsuit claims that the company's practices are in violation of the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act. It also alleges that neither CHR Worldwide nor Robinson Fresh holds the necessary PACA license - the license issued by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to legally trade produce. However, Blue Book services found, C.H. Robinson does in fact hold an active license.

Earlier this year, the USDA performed an onsite, seven day investigation into the allegations. C.H. Robinson said in a statement that it "cooperated and supported their full 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".

"The company did not violate any express or implied duties to the growers," it detailed.

Commenting on the motivation behind the complaint, the company claims that it "loaned several of the growers listed in the complaint money to finance their businesses". It says that "now that the money is due to be repaid, these growers are using this complaint to avoid paying their debts".

In direct response, the attorney representing the plaintiffs - Craig Stokes - said that he only knows of one grower who owes Robinson money from a loan.

The farmers' attorney claims that documents will demonstrate that Robinson charged more fees than legally permissible and that fees were not properly disclosed in contracts with growers.

Stokes also explained on Tuesday that the group has "examples of upcharges on freight of more than US$1000. That's a clear violation of PACA,".

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