Landmark High Court Judgment in Brazilian Orange Cartel Case

November 12, 2021

David Went from Exchange Chambers is part of the legal team that has secured a High Court judgment that will result in a multi-billionaire Brazilian orange juice magnate and his son facing trial over their participation in an illegal cartel.

José Luis Cutrale, and his son, José Luis Cutrale Jr, were party to a purchase cartel in Brazil with other major orange juice producers which had a significant adverse impact on Brazilian orange growers.

The growers are seeking damages which could run into the billions of pounds as the cartel suppressed the prices growers could sell oranges at forcing thousands out of business and thousands more into financial ruin.

Instructed by PGMBM, the law firm acting for the orange growers, David Went (along with James Ramsden QC, James Flynn QC, Russell Hopkins, and Anirudg Mathur) successfully argued that the case against the Cutrales should proceed in England because of José Luis Cutrale Snr’s extensive connections to the UK, including an exclusive London residence, and there being no realistic chance of litigation in England interfering with cases in the Brazilian courts which have been hopelessly delayed for years.

Now the orange juice magnate’s domination of the global market, and anti-competitive rates could be laid bare through a disclosure application made by the claimants.

Pedro Martins, partner at PGMBM said:

“We represent clients who have been suicidal, depressed and who have taken drastic steps to escape this cartel and we simply cannot ignore that.

“We are determined to help the victims of the Cutrales and whilst the Cutrales attempted to persuade the High Court in London not to hear the case, they have failed. We will hold them accountable for the financial losses they have caused and for the social impact of the illegal cartel they operated.”

Known in Brazil as the ‘Orange King’, José Luis Cutrale Sr owns and runs Cutrale, one of the world’s largest processors and distributors of concentrated orange juice, with his family, including son José Luis Cutrale Jr, co-defendant in this case.

In 2016, the Cutrales admitted engaging in illegal, anti-competitive practices between 1999 and 2006 and paid an administrative fine of more than £70 million. In addition, alleged co-conspirators Louis Dreyfus, Cargill and Citrosuco also confessed to cartel practices.

According to the evidence the cartel members were also known to have a written agreement known as the “Garden Agreement’ and conducted audits of the operation which subjected the farmers to the cartel’s price conditions.

None of the victims of the cartel were, however, compensated and after fruitlessly attempting to seek redress in Brazil, representatives of victims of the Cutrale contacted PGMBM to discuss litigating in England.

PGMBM Managing Partner Tom Goodhead said: “José Luis Cutrale Sr should not be protected from consequences by borders, and this decision is a great step towards justice and redress for the claimants.

“We believe that this is the first ever private enforcement of Brazilian competition law in the English courts and is testament to London being the world’s leading dispute resolution centre.

“The cartel had a devastating impact upon our clients and the communities they live in.”