Pilgrim’s Pride CEO facing charges with price fixing
The charges are the latest bombshell to hit the U.S. meat industry, which has been gripped by crisis after the coronavirus pandemic sparked plant closures, reports Bloomberg.
The chief executive officer of Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. Jayson Penn was indicted by a grand jury in Colorado along with a former vice president of the company. There are also charges against executives from Claxton Poultry Farms Inc., a tiny player with about 1% market share.
It’s one of the stranger examples of alleged market-rigging in a long history of cases -- and an unusual one in that the chief of a company this big is actually facing criminal charges and as many as 10 years in prison. The charges the U.S. Justice Department laid out this week in its indictment appear to document executives at competing companies colluding to share pricing and bidding information from 2012 through 2017 in the cut-throat world of commodity chicken.
Pilgrim’s, which is majority owned by Brazilian food giant JBS SA, said it is “committed to high ethical standards, governance, and free and open competition that benefits both customers and consumers.” The company will “continue to fully cooperate with the Department of Justice in their investigation,” it said in a statement.
The case against Pilgrim’s is part of an ongoing investigation into allegations of price fixing by chicken processors that came to light last year. Tyson Foods Inc. and Sanderson Farms Inc. have also received grand jury subpoenas in the investigation, according to regulatory filings. In a statement, the Justice Department said the charges were the first filed in the open probe. Together, Pilgrim’s, Tyson and Sanderson control almost half of the U.S. chicken market.
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