San Francisco, California, USA : StarKist Co. has agreed to plead guilty for its role in a conspiracy to fix prices of packaged seafood sold in the United States, the Department of Justice announced today.
According to a one-count felony charge filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco, StarKist and its co-conspirators agreed to fix the prices of canned tuna fish from as early as November 2011, through at least as late as December 2013. In addition to pleading guilty, StarKist has agreed to cooperate in the investigation. StarKist faces a criminal fine of up to $100 million. The amount of StarKist’s fine will be determined at a sentencing hearing and the plea agreement is subject to court approval.
“The conspiracy to fix prices on these household staples had direct effects on the pocketbooks of American consumers,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “All Americans have the right to the benefits of free and open competition — the best goods and services at a price free from collusion. We will continue to hold companies and individuals who cheat consumers accountable.”
“Our citizens’ confidence in the ability to buy goods within an unbiased market is key to sustaining an efficient and fair economy,” said Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett, FBI San Francisco. “This investigation stands as a symbol of our commitment to holding corporations and senior leadership accountable and ensuring that activities such as price fixing will not be tolerated.”
A total of six charges have resulted from this federal antitrust investigation into the packaged seafood industry, which is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office and the FBI’s San Francisco Field Office. Anyone with information on price fixing, bid rigging or other anticompetitive conduct related to the packaged seafood industry should contact the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office at (415) 934-5300, visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html, or call the FBI tip line at (415) 553-7400.
Six charges have resulted from the investigation. Two former Bumble Bee executives and a former StarKist executive pleaded guilty to price-fixing. Christopher Lischewski, former Bumble Bee chief executive, has pleaded not guilty to a price-fixing charge.
Chicken of the Sea has not been charged because the company cooperated with the department’s investigation.
The three companies control about 80 percent of the U.S. canned tuna market.
StarKist is committed to being a socially responsible company and doing the right thing. We have cooperated with the DOJ during the course of its investigation and accept responsibility,” Andrew Choe, company president and CEO, said in a statement. “We will continue to conduct our business with the utmost transparency and integrity. While this process is long-term in nature, we have addressed the necessary actions required in this plea agreement, including continuing to strengthen related compliance best practices.”