A federal grand jury has indicted the CEO and president of Bumble Bee Foods in California this week on charges that he conspired to fix the prices of packaged seafood that was sold in U.S., said the Department of Justice on Wednesday.
CEO Christopher Lischewski has become the fourth person charged in this federal probe into price fixing and was indicted in the Northern District of California U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
The attorney representing Lischewski, John Keker said his client is innocent.
The indictment claims that Lischewski had agreed to the price fixing in meetings as well as other communications from November of 2010 through December of 2013.
Jill Irvin, the general counsel for Bumble Bee Foods said that the company’s board of directors would act swiftly so as to ensure continuity at the leadership level of the company. Bumble Bee, said Irvin, has a senior management team that is very strong and capable already in place and would continue operating the business in the usual fashion while always having an eye looking toward growth.
In May of 2017, Bumble Bee reached an agreement to plead guilty to a single price-fixing count and pay a $25 million criminal fine.
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.
Stephen Hodge, who previously was an executive with StarKist, the tuna producer, was charged as well during May of 2017 with participating in the conspiracy to fix prices for canned tuna between 2011 and 2013.
The market for canned tuna across the U.S. has been dominated for a long time by just three companies. The largest is Chicken of the Sea owned by the Thai Union Group, while the second largest is Bumble Bee and then StarKist.
During December of 2015, the Department of Justice barred the Thai Union Group from acquiring Bumble Bee.
South Korea’s Dongwon Group is the parent company for StarKist.