Meat Packing: by Land or Sea, Facing Indictments, Investigations, Jail Time

The former president and chief executive of Bumble Bee Foods was sentenced to 40 months in jail and a $100,000 fine for his role in a yearslong conspiracy to fix prices of canned tuna.

The former executive, Christopher Lischewski, was the leader of the scheme. It involved three other executives who pleaded guilty and testified against Mr. Lischewski.

The scheme affected over $600 million worth of canned tuna sales, according to prosecutors.

Mr. Lischewski faced a maximum sentence of 10 years and a $1 million fine when he was charged in May 2018, according to court records.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) antitrust division sent investigative demands, similar to subpoenas, to Tyson Foods, JBS SA, Cargill, Inc., and National Beef, Inc., and has contacted state attorneys general about the probe after a group of states called for an investigation, said the source, who declined to be named because the inquiry is confidential.

The DOJ request comes at a time of intense scrutiny on beef packers who have struggled with shutdowns and reduced plant outputs due to the coronavirus. Cattle markets have seen increased volatility which reduced prices paid to producers while supply shortages dramatically increased the price of wholesale beef, increasing packer revenues per animal processed.

Finally, a federal grand jury in the U.S. District Court in Denver, Colorado, returned an indictment against four executives for their role in a conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chickens, the Department of Justice announced.

The one-count indictment charges four current and former senior executives from two major broiler chicken producers with conspiring to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chickens. Broiler chickens are chickens raised for human consumption and sold to grocers and restaurants.

According to the indictment, from at least as early as 2012 until at least early 2017, Jayson Penn, Roger Austin, Mikell Fries, and Scott Brady conspired to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chickens across the United States. Penn is the President and Chief Executive Officer, and Austin is a former Vice President, of a chicken supplier headquartered in Colorado. Fries is the President and a member of the board, and Brady is a Vice President, of a broiler chicken producer headquartered in Georgia.

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