However, Royal Ahold, the distributor's Netherlands-based owner, said the putative suit has no merit and will not likely damage its intention to sell the company.
The Financial Times reported that a Connecticut hospital and a family-owned Italian operator in Rockford, IL, allege that the second largest distributorship used a fraudulent supply system to overcharge customers by hundreds of millions of dollars between 2000 and 2003.
"We do not believe the case has merit. U.S. Foodservice will fight it vigorously," Ahold spokeswoman Caro Bamforth was quoted as saying.
Ahold's Peter Wakkie, chief corporate governance counsel, asserted in published reports that the lawsuit does not stem from the famous accounting scandal that cost the jobs of several U.S. Foodservice executives. Financial analysts concurred, saying the suit is about pricing.
Ahold, the world's fourth-biggest food retail and foodservice group by sales that generates 74% of its sales in the United States, has put U.S. Foodservice up for sale. It is valued by analysts at up to 5.2 billion euros or about $6.86 billion.