A federal judge has extended a temporary restraining order blocking Pacific Seafood Group’s potential acquisition of Ocean Gold Seafoods and has ordered Pacific Seafood to disclose all documents related to a possible stock or asset purchase.
Commercial fishermen — including Dennis Rankin of Rankin Fish in Astoria — obtained the temporary restraining order after alleging that the purchase of the Westport, Wash., fish processor would enhance Pacific Seafood’s monopoly power over the groundfish, whiting and coldwater shrimp markets.
Pacific Seafood announced last week that the purchase of Ocean Gold was canceled and moved to have lawsuit dismissed, but the fishermen have pressed forward with the federal antitrust challenge.
Judge Owen Panner of U.S. District Court in Medford on Friday extended the temporary restraining order until late March. The judge set a hearing on the fishermen’s suit and Pacific Seafood’s motion to dismiss for March 5. A hearing on the suit had initially been scheduled for early February.
Panner also rejected Pacific Seafood’s request to protect any documents related to a possible purchase of Ocean Gold. The judge ruled that Pacific Seafood would not be harmed by disclosing the documents to the fishermen’s attorneys and experts so long as the information is subject to strict confidentiality.
Fishermen had previously filed a similar lawsuit alleging monopolistic business practices by Pacific Seafood, a dominant fish processing and distribution company based in Clackamas. The lawsuit was settled in 2012.
Pacific Seafood agreed to several steps to encourage competition, including an end to an exclusive marketing agreement with Ocean Gold when the agreement expires in February 2016. Frank Dulcich, Pacific Seafood’s president and chief executive officer, already has significant stock in Ocean Gold, among the largest fish processors on the West Coast.
“Pacific Seafood Group could end this case by entering into a stipulated preliminary injunction and permanent injunction that it will not in the future attempt to purchase Ocean Gold Seafoods or control it through any sort of contractual or other means,” Michael Haglund, a Portland attorney representing the fishermen, said in an email. “So far, their lawyers have refused to consider such a stipulation.”
Pacific Seafood’s general counsel was not immediately available late Friday to comment.