Published: Thu, May 17, 2018
Business | By Tara Barton

Bumble Bee CEO Lischewski indicted

Bumble Bee CEO Lischewski indicted

USA prosecutors filed a criminal charge Wednesday against the CEO of Bumble Bee Foods as part of an ongoing investigation into price fixing in the packaged seafood industry.

The U.S. Department of Justice alleged Tuesday that Lischewski conspired with rival seafood companies to artificially inflate tuna prices.

Lischewski's attorney, John Keker, said his client has lived a hardworking and ethical life and is innocent.

The San Diego-based company also agreed to cooperate with the Antitrust Division's ongoing investigation involving packaged seafood.

"We are disappointed by the [Department of Justice's] decision to charge him with criminal conduct", Keker added. "When the facts are known and the truth emerges, Mr. Lischewski will be found not guilty". The charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $1 million.

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Bumble Bee itself pleaded guilty past year to one count of pricing fixing and agreed to pay a criminal fine of $25 million.

In December of 2016, two of the company's executives reached an agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to price-fixing, following a Department of Justice Anti-Trust Division and FBI investigation. Thai Union's Chicken of the Sea is the largest, followed by Bumble Bee and StarKist.

The market for canned tuna across the US has been dominated for a long time by just three companies. In December 2015, the Justice Department stopped Thai Union Group from buying Bumble Bee. The DOJ announced in May 2017 that the company and unnamed co-conspirators agreed to fix the prices of shelf-stable tuna from as early as the first quarter of 2011, through at least as late as the fourth quarter of 2013. A private class-action lawsuit has accused Bumble Bee, Starkist and Tri Union Seafoods, also known as Chicken of the Sea, of conspiring to fix USA tuna prices.

Two of the company's executives, Kenneth Worsham and Walter Cameron, have pleaded guilty to price-fixing charges but have yet to be sentenced.

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