Court: Some ADM Employee Docs Secured

Archer Daniels Midland Ordered to Turn Over Some Employee Info in Ethanol Lawsuit

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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A federal court sides with Archer Daniels Midland on its claims of attorney-client privilege regarding an employee at the center of an ethanol-markets lawsuit. (DTN file photo)

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- Archer Daniels Midland hired a law firm to conduct an investigation a day after suspending an employee for violating internal accounting rules in 2019 who is now at the center of an ethanol markets lawsuit.

A federal court ruled this week that ADM will not be required to turn over documents generated by the firm investigating the potential legal consequences of ADM employee Adam Kuffel's actions, to plaintiff AOT Holding AG. However, ADM will be required to produce all other documents in connection with that suspension.

Kuffel was suspended for moving positions in ethanol derivatives between segregated accounts. According to court documents, Kuffel alleges he was ordered by company officials to violate the company's policy.

Both sides have been fighting it out about whether documents generated by the firm ADM hired, Ropes and Gray, should be considered information protected by attorney-client privilege. Ropes and Gray began its work on Nov. 1, 2019.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Central Illinois ruled information generated by the firm after that date was protected.

AOT Holding has since filed an objection to the ruling, meaning another judge will consider affirming or overturn it.

AOT filed a class-action lawsuit in May 2020, alleging ADM manipulated the market at the Argo, Illinois, terminal by flooding the fuel terminal with lower-priced ethanol starting in November 2017 through March 2019. The Argo terminal is the daily location for ethanol trading. The court said the specific trading in question occurred during the 30-minute "market-on-close," or MOC, window.

The trading window is considered crucial because the trading is used to set the daily Chicago benchmark price to determine the value of Chicago ethanol derivatives.

According to a May 3, 2022, court order, Kuffel testified he was acting at the direction of either Rachel Hudson or Chris Cuddy, both of whom are Kuffel's superiors at ADM.

AOT alleged Ray Bradbury and Kuffel, as "senior members of ADM's ethanol group" worked to artificially lower the price of ethanol derivatives. Hudson passed away recently after working for 17 years at ADM.

ADM attorneys argued the court's May 3 ruling released information that should have been sealed as part of the 2019 order.

AOT has alleged ADM's actions benefited the company by increasing the value of ADM's "short" or "hedged" ethanol positions. "Stated differently, plaintiff alleges that Bradbury and Kuffel artificially stunted ethanol prices to benefit ADM investments," the court said in its May 3 ruling.

The court has said previously AOT should have the opportunity to probe whether Kuffel's suspension was in any way connected to an ethanol price-manipulation scheme alleged by AOT.

Similar other lawsuits were filed and already dismissed by the court. One additional lawsuit is still pending, filed by Midwest Renewable Energy LLC.

Read more on DTN:

"ADM Ordered to Release Docs on Employee,"…

"Archer Daniels Midland Ordered to Turn Over Employee Info in Ethanol Lawsuit,"…

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Todd Neeley

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