Marine Harvest, Cultivos Yadran Hit with $5m Counter Lawsuit
True Nature Seafood filed a counter lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Miami last week accusing Cultivos Yadran S.A., Marine Harvest, Rafael Puga, South Pacific Specialties and Francisco Pinto of conspiring to discourage True Nature's suppliers and customers from doing business with the Miami-based seafood importer.
True Nature is seeking damages of no less than $5 million.
The lawsuit alleges that beginning in August 2006, Puga, a Marine Harvest executive, and Pinto, a South Pacific executive and Puga's nephew, conspired to intimidate and frighten True Nature's suppliers with false and misleading claims in an effort to harm True Nature's business relationships. Norway-based Marine Harvest is one of the world's largest farmed salmon companies, with an office in Miami, and South Pacific is a Miami-based seafood importer; both are True Nature competitors.
The lawsuit also alleges that beginning in April, Yadran, a Santiago, Chile-based farmed salmon supplier, unbeknownst to True Nature, advised True Nature's U.S. customers that it was no longer supplying seafood to True Nature. Instead, Yadran began using Marine Harvest to supply seafood to True Nature's U.S. customers.
Yadran and True Nature met in June to discuss the damages suffered by True Nature, but the lawsuit alleges that Puga and Pinto encouraged Yadran to instead file a lawsuit against True Nature.
On Aug. 4, Yadran did, accusing True Nature and two of its principals, Amado Rodriguez and Alejandro Almeida, of pocketing portions of payments for salmon the company sold to Costco Wholesale Corp., a Issaquah, Wash.-based club store chain, cheating Yadran out of more than $1 million. In the lawsuit, Yadran also claims Costco owes the company more than $3.3 million for salmon the retailer never paid for.
Following Yadran's lawsuit, True Nature alleges that Pinto e-mailed a large number of companies claiming that True Nature would soon file for federal bankruptcy protection, and that any payments True Nature made to its suppliers in the previous 90 days would be required to be refunded to the bankruptcy court.
"The altering or revocation of pre-existing business arrangements between True Nature and its suppliers has damaged True Nature's reputation and finances by causing True Nature's suppliers to refuse to do business with True Nature, by reducing the volume of business these suppliers are willing to do with True Nature or by restricting previous credit terms extended to True Nature by its suppliers," according to True Nature's lawsuit.