New York Attorney General Letitia James today secured 1.2 million eggs that will feed New Yorkers still suffering the economic impacts of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) public health crisis. An agreement signed with Hillandale Farms Corporation resolves an August 2020 lawsuit brought by Attorney General James against one of the nation’s largest producers and wholesale distributors of eggs for illegally gouging the prices of eggs in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the agreement, Hillandale will refrain from any further excessive pricing of eggs — a violation of New York’s anti-price-gouging law — and will donate 1.2 million eggs — or 100,000 cartons — to food banks located throughout New York state. The food banks will distribute the eggs to thousands of food pantries, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters dedicated to providing food for New Yorkers in times of need.
“As New Yorkers scrambled to stock up on food, one of the nation’s largest egg producers raised prices to unprecedented levels and made it harder for New Yorkers to feed their families,” said Attorney General James. “Hillandale may have run afoul of our state’s price gouging laws and hatched a plan that targeted our state’s most vulnerable in its darkest hour, but, today, we’re delivering 1.2 million eggs to feed hungry New Yorkers and make things right. New Yorkers can trust that I will always stand up for our state’s working families.”
According to Attorney General James’ suit last year, starting in March 2020 and continuing through at least April 2020, Hillandale allegedly gouged the prices of eggs that it sold to major grocery store chains, U.S. military facilities, and wholesale food distributors throughout the state — charging New York customers exponentially higher prices than it did before the pandemic. The lawsuit alleged that during those two months alone, Hillandale made millions of dollars from unlawfully increasing the price of these eggs, many of which were sold in grocery stores located in low-income communities.
Specifically, the lawsuit alleged that Hillandale, a company based in Ohio and Pennsylvania, began raising prices in March 2020, as the pandemic grew to emergency levels. From January 2020 to early March 2020, Hillandale charged Western Beef Supermarket prices ranging from $0.59 to $1.10 for a dozen large white eggs. On March 15, 2020, Hillandale raised that price to $1.49. As the pandemic progressed, Hillandale raised the prices it charged Western Beef repeatedly, eventually reaching $2.93 per dozen — almost five times the price Hillandale initially charged in January.
Similarly, the suit alleged that Hillandale raised its prices on eggs sold to Stop & Shop, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Associated Supermarkets, and at the commissary stores at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and at the U.S. military bases at Fort Hamilton and at Fort Drum.
Today’s agreement resolves claims brought by the Office of the Attorney General against all six Hillandale Farms companies in the lawsuit, including Hillandale Farms Corp.; Hillandale Farms East, Inc.; Hillandale Farms of PA, Inc.; Hillandale Farms Conn, LLC; Hillandale Farms of Delaware, Inc.; and Hillandale-Gettysburg, L.P. In addition to ensuring Hillandale ends the gouging of egg prices, the company has committed to donating 1.2 million eggs to food banks across New York state.
“Hillandale Farms is one of the largest producers and wholesale distributors of eggs in the nation, and at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, they made millions by cheating our most vulnerable communities, taking advantage of uncertain times, and increasing their prices to amass millions in profit while the virus ripped through our city,” said U.S. Representative Adriano Espaillat. “Today, we are taking a stand against corporate greed and stand united to set the record straight, fight for New Yorkers, and thanks to the efforts of Attorney General James, we are correcting a corporate injustice that hurt many families and individuals throughout our communities.”
“Today’s announcement by Attorney General Tish James is a huge win for New Yorkers in need,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “Hillandale Farms will cease its excessive pricing practices and will donate 100,000 cartons of eggs to food banks throughout our state, providing a critical boost to vulnerable New Yorkers struggling to put food on their tables.”
“‘Egg-cellent!’ I commend New York Attorney General Tish James for her wonderful work in securing 1.2 million eggs and ensuring that they will reach those in need through our local food pantries, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters,” said State Senator Phil Boyle.
“Access to food, especially during a public health crisis, is extremely important,” said State Senator Brian Benjamin. “In my home district of Harlem, where so many are struggling to provide for their families every day, we cannot allow big corporations to profit by taking advantage of a crisis. I applaud Attorney General James for her work to bring justice to the people, and I am glad to see the Community Kitchen of Harlem receiving these eggs just in time for Easter.”
“Before the COVID-19 crisis began, many of our working-class communities were food-insecure; the pandemic has only worsened the situation,” said State Senator Robert Jackson. “Millions of New Yorkers are going hungry, and the burden of the effect is more significant for Black and Brown families and those with children. I welcome the excellent news that New York Attorney General Letitia James secured an agreement that will feed needy New Yorkers. This while holding the largest producers and wholesale distributors of eggs accountable for illegally gouging prices during a pandemic. Thanks to the attorney general, today, many food banks will get a boost in their distribution to thousands of food pantries, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters dedicated to providing food for New Yorkers in times of need.”
“It is always disturbing that companies use times of crisis to gouge those they are supposed to serve, but when they do so with something as essential as food it hurts those who are most in need,” said State Senator Mario R. Mattera. “I applaud Attorney General Letitia James for not only making sure that these unscrupulous businesses are held accountable, but that those who were hurt by their actions will benefit.”
“It is unconscionable that any company would take advantage of consumers, particularly for the cost of food, during such a vulnerable time as COVID-19,” said State Senator Alexis Weik. “This resolution comes at a time when our communities are still in need. The attorney general’s settlement with Hillandale will deliver 100,000 cartons of eggs to food banks across New York, which will help feed families across the state.”
“I want to thank Attorney General James for her good work on behalf of New Yorkers at a very critical time,” said State Assemblymember Michael Fitzpatrick. “Price gouging for food items during an emergency is despicable behavior. Attorney General James addressed the egregious practice quickly and secured a fair settlement for all of us. The donated cartons of eggs to Long Island Cares will be of great help and comfort to those in need.”
“New York City is facing a hunger crisis. Almost one in five New York City children don’t have enough food to eat, and the communities hit hardest by the pandemic are suffering the most,” said State Assemblymember Danny O’Donnell. “I thank Attorney General James for her tireless efforts to ensure that justice is delivered in New York state, and that bad actors cannot use the pandemic to enrich themselves while our communities suffer. This donation will help get more meals in the hands of our Harlem residents.”
“During this pandemic, food insecurity has unfortunately increased significantly throughout our state,” said State Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez. “Our food banks have become lifelines for our communities, as they served thousands of meals in the past year to those who need it. I am glad to see Hillandale be held accountable for their appalling practice of price gouging, and look forward to seeing them support our ever important food banks.”
“We have seen firsthand, here in Suffolk County, how the COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated food insecurity, and this donation of eggs will go a long way in helping those who are struggling during these challenging times,” said Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer Robert Calarco. “I applaud Attorney General Letitia James for taking a stand against price-gouging, diligently looking out for consumers, and setting things right in a way that will help feed local families in a time of need.”
“Access to healthy and affordable food is vital to so many New Yorkers hurt by the dire economic impact this virus has inflicted,” said New York City Councilmember and City Council Health Committee Chair Mark Levine. “The resolution of this lawsuit by Attorney General James is a victory for the health of so many New Yorkers who, through no fault of their own, have been struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic. Hillandale Farms Corporation incorrectly thought that, during a national health crisis, they could take advantage of the situation to make a quick buck. Not under Attorney General James’ watch. I applaud the efforts of Letitia James and her staff for identifying and justly resolving this blatant example of pandemic profiteering.”
“We applaud the steadfast leadership of New York Attorney General Letitia James who continues to fight for our underserved communities,” said Leslie Gordon, president and CEO, Food Bank for New York City. “At a time when our city is still reeling from COVID-19, a donation like this will allow us to provide our network of nearly 1,000 soup kitchens and food pantries across the five boroughs with a sustainable source of protein. We project that nearly 1.6 million New Yorkers will be facing food insecurity in 2021 due to the continued economic fallout of the pandemic, and this donation will make a huge impact in serving our most vulnerable families struggling to put food on the table.”
“Long Island Cares, The Harry Chapin Regional Food Bank applauds the leadership of New York Attorney General Tish James in helping to secure the donation of fresh eggs to food banks as we continue to respond to the emergency food needs of our neighbors across the state, including on Long Island, where more than 267,000 people turned to Long Island Cares for the very first time since March of 2020,” said Paule Pachter, CEO, Long Island Cares. “Tish James is not someone who backs away from controversy in protecting the people of the Empire State. Her dedication to our justice system, advocating on behalf of people in need, addressing systemic racism, and, of course, her commitment towards ending hunger and food insecurity in New York state has set the bar high for other state attorneys general, and we were both excited and honored that Tish James visited Long Island Cares to support us in our efforts as we continue to respond to a 58 percent increase in food insecurity on Long Island brought about by COVID-19.”
“Attorney General James’ vigilance on behalf of New York’s consumers to hold companies responsible for price gouging during the pandemic is appreciated,” said Randi Shubin Dresner, president & CEO, Island Harvest Food Bank. “Securing a donation of eggs to New York’s network of food banks as part of the settlement is a just outcome. We thank Attorney General James for supplying wholesome, nutritious eggs to New Yorkers struggling with food insecurity and applaud her and her staff for their efforts on behalf of the most vulnerable among us.”
“We congratulate Attorney General James for reaching this agreement barring Hillandale Farms Corporation from further price-gouging,” said David R. Jones, president and CEO, Community Service Society. “It was beyond reprehensible that a big company, like Hillandale, sought to capitalize on a global health crisis to make a profit. Even more appalling was that countless low-income families in New York, already struggling in the wake of the pandemic, were forced to pay, in some cases, five times the price for an essential food item — eggs. We applaud the attorney general for protecting and delivering restitution for consumers harmed by Hillandale’s actions.”
This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General John P. Figura, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Jane M. Azia and Deputy Bureau Chief Laura J. Levine — all of the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau. Data Scientist Gautam Sisodia and Researcher Anushua Choudhury also assisted in this matter, under the supervision of Director of Research and Analytics Jonathan Werberg and Deputy Director Megan Thorsfeldt. The Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau is a part of the Division for Economic Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Chris D’Angelo and is overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.