DOJ: Four chicken execs indicted for price fixing
A federal grand jury in the U.S. District Court in Denver, returned an indictment against four executives for their role in a conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chickens, the Justice Department announced June 3.
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 CEO of Pilgrim’s Pride, the poultry division of JBS, and Austin is vice president of Pilgrim’s Pride. Fries and Brady are the president and vice president, respectively, of Georgia-based Claxton Poultry.
An indictment alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The offense charged carries a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by victims if either amount is greater than $1 million.
This case is the result of an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging, and other anticompetitive conduct in the broiler chicken industry, which is being conducted by the Antitrust Division with the assistance of the Commerce Department’s Office of Inspector General, Federal Bureau of Investigation Washington Field Office, and the Agriculture Department Office of Inspector General.
“Particularly in times of global crisis, the division remains committed to prosecuting crimes intended to raise the prices Americans pay for food,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “Executives who cheat American consumers, restauranteurs, and grocers, and compromise the integrity of our food supply, will be held responsible for their actions.”
“The FBI will not stand by as individuals attempt to line their pockets while hard-working Americans and restaurant owners are trying to put food on their tables,” said Timothy Slater, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “Today’s announcement shows the FBI’s commitment to investigating allegations of price fixing so that the perpetrators can be held accountable.”
“Rigging bids and fixing prices hurts consumers and undermines our economic system,” said Peggy E. Gustafson, inspector general of the Commerce Department. “We are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to root out those who take advantage of the American public’s trust.”
“We appreciate the commitment and investigative partnership with the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General,” said Special Agent in Charge Bethanne M. Dinkins of the USDA Office of Inspector General. “Ensuring the integrity of competition in agricultural markets in order for producers to receive competitive prices for their products, and to prevent consumers from being cheated, is of the utmost importance to USDA OIG, and we will continue to dedicate resources to the investigation of matters involving such potential of competitive harms.”
Shares of Pilgrim’s Pride plunged after the indictments, The Street reported. ❖
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