Bumble Bee CEO indicted in price fisxing cause

Marco Green
May 17, 2018

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.

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". "We are disappointed by the DOJ's decision to charge him with criminal conduct".

The Bumble Bee CEO has been charged with conspiring to inflate tuna prices.

Two other executives at Bumble Bee Foods have pleaded guilty in the price-fixing scheme, and a year ago the firm agreed to pay a $25 million fine after pleading guilty to price fixing.

"American consumers deserve free enterprise, not fixed prices, so the Department will not tolerate crimes like the one charged in today's indictment", he added.

Lion Capital acquired Bumble Bee Food in 2010.

Court documents show that Bumble Bee has already pleaded guilty and been sentenced to pay a criminal fine of at least Dollars 25 million as a result of the government's ongoing investigation. Both parties, as well as a Cayman Islands-registered holding company, Big Catch, which directly owns Bumble Bee, could possibly have to pay millions in damages if civil suits from tuna buyers are successful. That follows earlier similar charges against three StarKist tuna executives.

The Department of Justice alleges that Lischewski met and communicated with rival seafood companies to keep tuna prices artificially high.

According to documents filed December 29 in the US District Court for southern California, Lion Capital allegedly paid off Lischewski to take the heat in the ongoing class action tuna price-fixing lawsuit. 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.

Bumble Bee general counsel Jill Irvin has said the company hired a chief compliance officer last fall and recently reformed its guidelines and policies.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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