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From Antitrust Law Daily, October 18, 2018

StarKist agrees to plead guilty to fixing packaged seafood prices

By Jeffrey May, J.D.

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. A one-count felony information was filed in the federal district court in San Francisco (U.S. v. StarKist Co., Case 3:18-cr-00513-EMC).

StarKist is the second company to admit to its involvement in the conspiracy. In May 2017, Bumble Bee Foods LLC agreed to plead guilty to a similar charge. Four industry executives also have been charged. Three agreed to plead guilty; however, the president and CEO of Bumble Bee Foods LLC, Christopher Lischewski, has entered a plea of not guilty and apparently intends to fight the indictment.

According to today’s announcement, StarKist will admit to participating in the conspiracy from as early as November 2011 through at least as late as December 2013. Bumble Bee was alleged to have participated in the conspiracy for a slightly longer period, from the first quarter of 2011 through at least the fourth quarter of 2013.

The government did not disclose details of the plea agreement. It was noted, however, that StarKist’s fine would be determined at a sentencing hearing and that the plea agreement was subject to court approval.

Pending civil action. The probe of the packaged seafood industry prompted the filing of a number of civil antitrust suits against Bumble Bee, StarKist, and other producers. A consolidated class action is pending in the federal district court in San Diego.

Companies: Bumble Bee Foods LLC; StarKist Co.

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