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From Antitrust Law Daily, January 10, 2019

Chicken of the Sea reaches settlement in packaged seafood price fixing case

By Stephanie K. Mann, J.D.

Chicken of the Sea has announced a settlement with 29 companies, resolving antitrust claims against processors of packaged seafood products for conspiring to raise prices by decreasing the size of the available products without lowering their prices. Under the terms of the settlement,Chicken of the Sea will pay an undisclosed cash settlement and work with the companies in the promotion of innovative Chicken of the Sea products. Chicken of the Sea entered into a similar settlement with Walmart, which had filed its own suit, in May 2018. The settlement announcement today comes as the federal district court in San Diego ordered a hearing on the plaintiffs’ motions for class certification in the long-running case. The case is In re Packaged Seafood Products Antitrust Litigation, No.: 15-MD-2670 JLS (MDD).

"The settlement is a significant achievement for [Chicken of the Sea] and our revamped management team," Christianna Reed, Chicken of the Sea’s vice president and general counsel, stated. "We are also hopeful it will encourage any remaining litigants to put posturing aside and work with us to find pragmatic solutions that reflect the industry's challenging market realities. It is also an unfortunate reality that litigants who continue to pursue aggressive, unrealistic negotiation tactics are putting an iconic American Seafood brand and American jobs at risk."

Background. A number of private suits were instituted by supermarkets as well as consumers, alleging that producers and processors of packaged seafood products had collusively raised prices, by decreasing the size of the cans of shelf-stable seafood products (principally tuna) without also decreasing prices. The plaintiffs asserted claims for violations of Section 1 of the Sherman Act as well as various state antitrust laws.

Criminal charges. While the settlement resolves civil antitrust suits involving Chicken of the Sea, related criminal proceedings remain pending against Christopher Lischewski, the president and CEO of Bumble Bee Foods, LLC. Lischewski and other industry players were charged with price fixing. Chicken of the Sea was a reported whistleblower.

Attorneys: Bonny E. Sweeney (Hausfeld LLP) for Olean Wholesale Grocery Cooperative, Inc. and Pacific Groservice Inc. d/b/a PITCO Foods. Alec Blaine Finley, Jr. (Cuneo Gilbert & LaDuca LLP) and Camille Joy Decamp (Del Mar Law Group, LLP) for Capitol Hill Supermarket. Erik Raven-Hansen (Allen & Overy LLP) and John Terzaken (Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP) for Tri-Union Seafoods LLC. Alfred Carroll Pfeiffer, Jr. (Latham & Watkins LLP) for Starkist Co. Shylah Renee Alfonso (Perkins Coie LLP) for Tri Marine International, Inc.

Companies: Bumble Bee Foods, LLC; Chicken of the Sea; Olean Wholesale Grocery Cooperative, Inc.

MainStory: TopStory Antitrust CaliforniaNews

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