Pilgrim’s Pride Agrees To Price-Fixing Fine

Pilgrim’s Pride will pay a $107.9 million fine after pleading guilty to federal charges of price fixing. The plea agreement in federal court in Denver on Tuesday means the second-largest U.S. poultry processor is the first company to settle charges in an alleged conspiracy that involved 10 executives from five companies.

The Department of Justice filed charges last June that led to the indictment of then-CEO Jayson Penn. Pilgrim’s was alleged to have colluded with Tyson Foods and other broiler processors to hold back production to force prices higher and harm major customers, including Chick-fil-A and KFC.

Pilgrim’s participated in the price-fixing and bid-rigging conspiracy from 2012 to at least 2017, according to the plea agreement, and the DOJ alleged at least $361 million in Pilgrim’s sales were affected.

The Justice Department said the investigation is ongoing. “Today’s guilty plea demonstrates our unwavering commitment to prosecuting companies that violate the nation’s antitrust laws, especially when it involves something as central to everyday life as the food we eat,” said acting assistant attorney general Richard Powers of the Antitrust Division.

In mid-January, Pilgrim’s agreed to pay $75 million to settle a class-action lawsuit by some of its customers. JBS USA is the majority shareholder of Pilgrim’s Pride.

In January Tyson Foods agreed to pay $221.5 million in a settlement in the broiler chicken antitrust civil price-fixing lawsuit against the company. The agreement allows Tyson to exit the price-fixing lawsuits filed against it and other poultry companies filed by customers and consumers.

In both settlements the companies did not admit liability.

 

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