Bumble Bee CEO indicted for tuna price fixing

The CEO of Bumble Bee Foods is accused of price fixing

A day after the indictment of Bumble CEO Chris Lischewski on felony charges related to his alleged role in a massive conspiracy to fix prices of canned tuna sold in U.S. supermarkets, it remains unclear whether the CEO will keep his job at the tuna giant.

Lischewski is the fourth person to be charged as a result of the ongoing federal antitrust investigation into the packaged seafood industry, which is being conducted by the Antitrust Division's San Francisco Office and the FBI's San Francisco Field Office, according to the U.S. justice department.

The US Department of Justice said in a filing yesterday (16 May) the charges relate to price fixing that began around November 2010 and lasted through December 2013, which suggests the case surrounding US seafood group Bumble Bee and other executives may date back longer than previously thought.

But in a statement to Undercurrent News from Lischewski's attorney, John Keker of the firm Keker, Van Nest & Peters called his client "a decent and honorable man, who has lived a hardworking and ethical life".

In a separate action, retail giant Walmart filed a civil suit last year claiming that the industry illegally set canned tuna prices over a five-year period. "And most significantly on this dark day, he is innocent of any wrongdoing".

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"The Antitrust Division is committed to prosecuting senior executives who unjustly profit at the expense of their customers", Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim said.

'American consumers deserve free enterprise, not fixed prices.

The DOJ has been engaged in an investigation of the country's packaged seafoods industry with the "big three" canners - Bumble Bee; Thai Union Group-owned Tri-Union Seafoods, which trades as Chicken of the Sea; and Starkist, owned by South Korea's Dongwon Enterprise. In December 2015, the Justice Department stopped Thai Union Group from buying Bumble Bee. Two of its executives agreed to plead guilty to price-fixing in December 2016, following an investigation by the Justice Department's Anti-Trust Division and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The CEO of Bumble Foods has been charged with fixing the price of canned tuna as part of a wider conspiracy that would have pushed up costs for shoppers.

For Bumble Bee, one of the world's largest seafood companies, with more than 1,000 employees and doing as much as $1 billion in annual sales, a $25 million fine and a single felony count can fade pretty quickly into memory.

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