Schoenbaum v. E.I. Dupont De Nemours and Co.

Decision Date20 September 2007
Docket NumberNo. 4:05CV01108ERW.,4:05CV01108ERW.
Citation517 F.Supp.2d 1125
PartiesHilmer SCHOENBAUM, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs, v. E.I. DUPONT DE NEMOURS AND COMPANY, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., and Monsanto Company, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Missouri

Daniel W. Krasner, Wolf and Haldenstein, David A.P. Brower, Brower Piven, Diogenes P. Kekatos, Seeger Weiss LLP, Jennifer Sclar, Melvyn I. Weiss, Milberg and Weiss, Steven A. Weiss, Seeger Weiss LLP, New York City, Adam J. Levitt, Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLC, Chicago, IL, Don M. Downing, Erica L. Airsman, Gray and Ritter, P.C., St. Louis, MO, Jennifer Leigh Young, Peter E. Seidman, Milberg and Weiss, Scott J. Farrell, Wolf and Haldenstein, New York City, W. Gordon Ball, Ball and Scott, Knoxville, TN, Charles F. Speer, Speer Law Firm, P.A., Kansas City, MO, for Plaintiffs.

Ann Lugbill, Cincinnati, OH, for consolidated filer Plaintiff.

Alicia R. Gutierrez, Amy J. Mauser, Daniel L. Low, James P. Denver, III, Scott E. Gant, Boies and Schiller, Washington, DC, Andrew Rothschild, C. David Goerisch, Lewis and Rice, St. Louis, MO, Anthony J. Franze, Arnold and Porter LLP, Cameron Cohick, McKenna and Long, David P. Gersch, Arnold and Porter LLP, Donna M. Donlon, McKenna and Long, Judith Bernstein-Gaeta, Arnold and Porter LLP, Philip D. Bartz, McKenna and Long, Robert N. Weiner, Arnold and Porter LLP, Stephen M. Lastelic, McKenna and Long, Washington, DC, Stephen H. Rovak, Stephen H. Rovak, Stephen J. O'Brien, Sonnenschein and Nath, LLP, St. Louis, MO, for Defendants.

James J. Rosemergy, Michael J. Flannery, Carey and Danis, Clayton, MO, for Respondent.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

E. RICHARD WEBBER, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Defendants E.I. DuPont De Numours and Company; Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc.; and Monsanto Company's Joint Motion to Dismiss [doe. # 138].

I. BACKGROUND FACTS

Defendant Monsanto Company develops, manufacturers, licenses, and sells agricultural biotechnology, agricultural chemicals, and other agricultural products. Monsanto developed plant biotechnology that enabled the creation of genetically improved crops by transferring into crop seed one or more genes that give the resulting plants various favorable traits. One type of genetically modified crop seed marketed by Monsanto is Roundup Ready® corn and soybean seed, which is resistant to glyphosate-based herbicides, such as Monsanto's Roundup® brand herbicide. One other genetically modified crop seed is Monsanto's YieldGard® corn seed, which is resistant to certain pests and insects. Monsanto holds the patent on these technologies.

Monsanto sells its patented technology to seed producers, including Defendants E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company ("Defendant DuPont" or "DuPont") and Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. ("Defendant Pioneer" or "Pioneer"), under a license to use the gene technology to create certain genetically-modified soybean and corn seeds. The seed producers then sell the seed developed with Monsanto's technology to retailers or growers, both of whom must obtain licenses from Monsanto before using the seed with the technology.

In March 2004, Plaintiffs, certain individual farmers and farming entities,1 filed thirteen respective state court class actions against Defendants Monsanto, Pioneer, and DuPont (collectively, "Defendants"). These class actions were filed in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. The parties agreed to transfer the cases to the Eastern District of Missouri and on December 20, 2005, this Court granted the parties' joint motion to consolidate the cases. In the 419-page consolidated amended complaint, Plaintiffs allege the factual basis for different damages claims against Defendants regarding the purchase of several varieties of genetically-modified crop seeds ("GM seeds") manufactured or sold by Defendants during the time period relevant to this action.

According to the complaint, beginning in the early to mid-1990s, and continuing to the present day, Monsanto, aided by its alleged co-conspirators (Defendants Pioneer and DuPont), devised and implemented a scheme to monopolize the GM corn seed and trait markets and the broad-spectrum-herbicide-resistant soybean and corn seed and trait markets.2 Pls.' Compl. ¶ 65. Between 1992 and 1996, in furtherance of the scheme to monopolize, Monsanto allegedly entered into a series of agreements with competing soybean and corn seed manufacturers, wherein Monsanto licensed the manufacturers to produce GM seeds incorporating Monsanto's patented traits. Id. at ¶ 72. Monsanto allegedly imposed the following restrictions on the seed manufacturers who were granted a license: (1) prohibiting, without Monsanto's permission, "stacking" Monsanto's seed traits with non-Monsanto genes; (2) prohibiting the use of any glyphosate-containing herbicide other than Roundup®, or promoting any broad-spectrum herbicide other than Roundup®; and (3) imposing tying and exclusive dealing arrangements, consonant with the above requirements and restrictions.3 Id. at ¶ 67.

The complaint further charges that in or about 1995, Monsanto changed its seed trait licensing and marketing model and instituted its "value capture program." Id. at ¶ 73. Under this program, Monsanto allegedly charged a premium on all GM seeds containing Monsanto's traits, rather than requiring a flat up-front payment. Id. Monsanto also allegedly mandated seed companies to:

(a) require farmers including Plaintiffs and the other members of the Classes-to sign grower licensing agreements with Monsanto that forbade them from replanting seeds saved from one year's harvest in a subsequent year;

(b) charge a fixed technology fee — set by Monsanto — on each bag of genetically-modified seeds they sold, incorporating the technology fee into the final price of each bag of seed that they sold; and

(c) collect those technology fees from growers, including Plaintiffs and the other members of the Classes, as part of the price they paid for those seeds, and remit those fees to Monsanto on terms agreed to between Monsanto and its competitors, including Pioneer.

Id. at ¶ 75. Thus, according to the complaint, the premium Monsanto charged included a technology fee, which was dictated by Monsanto to its competitors, including Defendants Pioneer and DuPont, and was incorporated into the final seed price paid by Plaintiffs and other members of the Classes.4 Id. at ¶ 76. The complaint further alleges that, under the value capture program, Monsanto required farmers to execute a Technology Agreement, in order to purchase and use Monsanto's patented genes. Id. at ¶ 82. The complaint also alleges that, pursuant to the Technology Agreement, they were required to pay the above, mentioned "technology fee" directly to Monsanto. Id.

The complaint alleges that the "value capture program" enabled Monsanto to gain control over all material aspects of the markets for genetically-modified seeds and seed traits. Id. at ¶ 73. Monsanto's seed company licensees allegedly agreed to relinquish their right to competitively determine what premium, if any, they charge for genetically-modified seeds. Id. at ¶ 78. Monsanto, in return, granted each licensee a share of the profits resulting from Monsanto's alleged anti-competitive practices, including a share of the technology fee itself. Id.

As further evidence of Monsanto's intent to monopolize the genetically-modified seed markets, the complaint refers to Monsanto's "Maize Protection Business Plan" ("the Protection Plan"), authored in 1996. Id. at ¶ 101. The complaint alleges that the Protection Plan outlines Monsanto's strategy to monopolize and restrain trade through licensing its genetically modified soybean and corn seed traits to independent seed companies, such as Pioneer and DuPont, that competed both with Monsanto and with each other. Id. The complaint quotes the following statements in the Protection Plan:

Monsanto should enter into commercial agreements with the maize [corn] seed companies that comprise 90% of the sales in the USA hybrid maize seed market.

If we can secure 90% of the distribution, it will be difficult for our competitors to gain significant share long term.

It will be more difficult for other suppliers of traits to demand dollars and expect gene switching when seed companies are already paying Monsanto....

Patents for Roundup Ready® genes have been issued. Using these patents and agreements with maize seed companies, Monsanto can prevent the use of any other glyphosate product in-crop [a.k.a. competitive alternatives to Monsanto's Roundup Ready® seed products and traits] to corn.

Id. at ¶ 104 (citing Protection Plan at 12-13).

The complaint further alleges that the Protection Plan explained the means by which Defendants could fix prices of the seeds at issue and divide up the additional revenue gained among Monsanto and its alleged coconspirators:

A grower agreement is a license with the grower that allows the grower use of the gene technology. In return, the grower pays a "tech fee" along with the price of the maize seed. The tech fee will be set by Monsanto and will be listed on the maize seed sale invoice.... It will be collected by the seed companies. It will be negotiated as to how Monsanto and the seed companies will split the tech fee. The major advantage of the grower license approach is that Monsanto can regulate the price being charged to the end user.... The revenue generated from the traits can be set by Monsanto as opposed to being entirely at the mercy of the seed company pricing decisions.

Id. at ¶ 105.

The complaint charges that between 1995 and 1999, Monsanto and Defendant Pioneer met and entered into collusive, anti-competitive agreements that had the...

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