Pilgrim’s Pride pleads guilty to price fixing, $107M fine
Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., a major broiler chicken producer based in Greeley, Colo., has pleaded guilty to price fixing and bid rigging, and has been sentenced to pay approximately $107 million in criminal fines for its participation in a conspiracy, the Justice Department said Tuesday.
“According to the plea agreement entered in the U.S. District Court in Denver, from as early as 2012 and continuing at least into 2017, Pilgrim’s participated in a conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition for sales of broiler chicken products in the United States that affected at least $361 million in Pilgrim’s sales of broiler chicken products,” the Justice Department said in a news release.
The District Court accepted Pilgrim’s guilty plea and sentenced the company to pay a criminal fine of $107,923,572.
“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 Richard Powers, acting assistant attorney general in Justice’s Antitrust Division. “This guilty plea is a direct result of the tireless efforts of our dedicated career prosecutors and staff, and partners at the FBI, Commerce Office of Inspector General (OIG) and USDA OIG.”
“Today’s plea is another example of the FBI’s ongoing work to eliminate bid rigging and price fixing and hold those conducting these activities accountable for their actions,” said Steven M. D’Antuono, assistant director in charge of the FBI Washington Field Office. “These criminal acts cheat American workers and consumers while harming competitive markets. This ongoing investigation has yielded charges against 10 individuals for their efforts to illegally manipulate broiler chicken prices, and the FBI is committed to continuing this important work alongside the Department of Justice and our partners.”
“We appreciate the ongoing commitment and concerted efforts of our law enforcement partners at the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, the FBI, and the Department of Commerce OIG to investigate a long-running scheme affecting competition through the rigging of bids and price fixing of broiler chicken products,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Bethanne Dinkins of the USDA Inspector General’s Office.
Pilgrim’s is the first company to plead guilty for its role in a conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chicken products, the Justice Department said. Broiler chickens are chickens raised for human consumption and sold to grocers and restaurants. Ten executives and employees at major broiler chicken producers have also previously been charged. The investigation remains ongoing.
A violation of the Sherman Act carries a maximum penalty of a $100 million fine for corporations. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.
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