Tyson Cooperating With DOJ In Broiler Probe
Under a program that could protect it from criminal prosecution, Tyson Foods said it is cooperating with the Department of Justice (DOJ) in a price-fixing investigation of the poultry industry.
Tyson issued a statement Wednesday acknowledging it received a grand jury subpoena on April 26 from the DOJ’s antitrust division regarding its criminal antitrust investigation into the broiler industry. Tyson said it had uncovered information in connection with that investigation that it reported to DOJ and took “appropriate actions to address the internal issues.”
Cooperating with the investigation is part of an application for leniency under the DOJ’s Corporate Leniency Program, Tyson said.
"A formal grant of leniency will mean that neither the company nor any of its employees will face criminal fines, jail time or prosecution," Tyson said in the statement. “Tyson Foods is committed to competing vigorously, honestly and in compliance with the letter and the spirit of the antitrust laws and respects the important role that the Department of Justice plays in enforcing these laws."
The DOJ has a policy of granting leniency to corporations that report their illegal antitrust activity at an early stage, provided the corporation meets certain conditions. “Leniency” means not charging the corporation criminally for the activity being reported, according to the DOJ. The DOJ lists six requirements for granting leniency.
The DOJ announced indictments last week against four chicken company executives alleging a conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chickens.
Jayson Penn, Roger Austin, Mikell Fries, and Scott Brady were each charged with one antitrust charge. Penn is the President and Chief Executive Officer, and Austin is a former Vice President, of Pilgrim’s Pride. Fries is the President and a member of the board, and Brady is a Vice President, of Claxton Poultry.
Pilgrim’s Pride, headquartered in Greeley, CO, claims to produce 20% of all chicken consumed in the U.S., and its parent company is JBS S.A.
Three of the four poultry executives pleaded not guilty; the fourth asked for a continuance to hire new counsel, according to documents filed in the case.
Pilgrim's has said it will fully cooperate with the DOJ in its investigation.
Claxton Poultry has called the allegations against the company "without merit" and said it intends to vigorously defend itself and its good name as the process moves forward.
Tyson Foods and Sanderson Farms Inc. also received grand jury subpoenas in the investigation, and all three companies have been accused in civil lawsuits of conspiring to raise prices for broiler chickens.