With closing arguments, lawyers paint wildly different views of Assemi-Wonderful Pistachio split

The Assemi Family contested claims of handshake deals over ‘super trees’ of pistachios, while the Wonderful Company pinned a bitter break-up on the next generation of family members

Closing arguments began on Monday in the Assemi Brothers’ trial against The Wonderful Company over a breach of contract regarding their pistachio operations. 

The Wonderful Company owner Stewart Resnick returned to court for the closing arguments, joining Darius Assemi and Kevin Assemi as the trial winds down. Farid Assemi did not attend on Monday due to his health. 


Assemis speak first: Following Judge Jeffrey Hamilton giving instructions to the jury on how they should deliberate once closing arguments conclude, attorney James Bennett, representing the Assemis, kicked off the final phase of the trial. 

  • Bennett started his closing statements by referencing an alleged the “oral ‘handshake’” agreement that Resnick allegedly had with Farid Assemi in 2014 to process pistachios from Wonderful’s genetically engineered “super trees” when they matured. 
  • “This claim is made up,” Bennett said, questioning Resnick’s honesty in his testimony earlier in the trial. 
  • Bennett noted that every contract the two businesses had was in writing from 2004-2019. He also reminded the jury that the first time Resnick said anything to the Assemis about an oral handshake deal was in February 2020, half a year after the initial complaint was filed. 
  • Bennett also argued that the Assemis needed adequate assurance in 2019 that they would receive a grower bonus – worth $25 million – for the 2018 crop. Wonderful never provided that insurance, which Bennett said led to the Assemis breaking off their association with Resnick to start their own pistachio processing operation. 

The other side: Wonderful attorney Rick Shackelford began his closing argument Tuesday afternoon, focusing much of his argument on claiming the Assemis’ ask for adequate assurance was a setup for a lawsuit, with the plan all along being to challenge Resnick as a pistachio competitor. 

  • Shackelford told the jury that for 15 years Resnick and Farid Assemi had a good relationship and would work everything out. That apparently changed when Farid’s son Kevin Assemi took over the pistachio business and allegedly fueled the split. 
  • Shackelford painted Kevin Assemi as only focused on money, contrary to Farid Assemi’s more business-friendly approach with the Resnick’s. 
  • He went as far as to compare Kevin Assemi’s approach to former Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane’s famed Moneyball approach of the early 2000s. 
  • “As long as it looked good on paper, Kevin Assemi thought it would pan out in the real world,” Shackelford said. 

What we’re watching: Shackelford will resume the closing arguments on behalf of The Wonderful Company Tuesday morning. 

  • Once Shackelford is finished, Bennett will have an opportunity for a rebuttal, after which the jury will finally deliberate and wrap up the months-long trial. 
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