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The Tuna Industry Faces a Price-Fixing Scandal as Bumble Bee CEO Faces Criminal Charges

By Chris Morris 9:12 AM EDT

Price-fixing allegations have rocked the food world for the second time this year, as the CEO of Bumble Bee Foods is facing criminal charges for allegedly working to eliminate competition in the packaged seafood industry.

Christopher Lischewski has been charged with one count of price fixing. That follows earlier similar charges against three StarKist tuna executives. One, who served as senior vice president for sales, pleaded guilty last year.

“American consumers deserve free enterprise, not fixed prices, so the department will not tolerate crimes like the one charged in today’s indictment,” said assistant attorney general Makan Delrahim in a statement.

Two other Bumble Bee executives have already pleaded guilty to price-fixing, and the company itself agreed to pay a $25 million fine for the same offense last year. Government officials, who have been investigating the charges for two years, say Lischewski conspired with other tuna companies between November 2010 and December 2013 to set the price for canned tuna.

Charges of price-fixing in the tuna world have been around for years. In 2015, when Bumble Bee was exploring a merger with Chicken of the Sea (a deal that ultimately fell apart), a grocery cooperative filed suit against the major manufacturers, accusing them of collaborating on setting the price of tuna.

The tuna tussle is the second price-fixing scandal of 2018. In January, food distributors sued Tyson, Pilgrim’s Pride and 15 other large chicken suppliers, accusing them of fixing the price of chicken over an eight-year period.

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