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Department of Justice Fines Pilgrim’s Pride $110 Million in Antitrust Settlement

Oct. 15, 2020
Two former executives of the company have been indicted for attempting to fix broiler chicken prices.

As part of a plea deal reached with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, Pilgrim’s Pride announced October 14 that it was willing to pay $110,524,140 in fines to settle the Department’s ongoing investigation into alleged price-fixing of broiler chicken products.

The fine was issued for “restraint of competition” affecting three contracts for the sale of chicken products to one customer in the United States.

In a statement, Pilgrim’s Pride CEO Fabio Sandri said he was “encouraged” that the agreement would conclude the Antitrust Division’s investigation of Pilgrim’s, which has already resulted in indictments against Pilgrim’s Pride’s previous CEO, Jayson Penn, a former VP, Roger Austin, as well as two sales executives from the company and ten total suspects including defendants from other companies like Claxton Poultry and Tyson Meats.

The plea deal, which is still subject to approval by the U.S. District Court of Colorado, does not include a monitor or probationary period for Pilgrim’s Pride and says the Justice Department agrees not to bring any further charges related to the alleged price-fixing scheme. In return, Pilgrim’s Pride must pay the hefty fine and follow the terms and provisions of the agreement.

The investigation, which covers alleges activities that took place between 2012 and 2019, was first brought on by a lawsuit filed by grocers and consumers alleging price-fixing between suppliers of broiler chickens. The Justice Department first indicted Jayson Penn and three other chicken supplier executives in June, alleging a conspiracy to fix prices between Pilgrim’s Pride and Claxton Poultry. After his indictment, Penn went on a leave of absence from Pilgrim’s before being formally replaced by Sandri in September; he has plead not guilty to the charges.

In October, a second wave of indictments implicated six more figures, including former Tyson Foods CEO Timothy Mulrenin and Rickie Blake of George’s Inc., a family-owned chicken supplier.

In a statement, Pilgrim’s current CEO said, “Pilgrim’s is committed to fair and honest competition in compliance with U.S. antitrust laws.”

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