October 8, 2020


Six more chicken industry executives indicted by the US government over alleged price fixing


The US government has accused an additional six executives in the chicken industry over suspected price-fixing in its investigations of the US$65 billion domestic poultry sector, Reuters reported.


The US Justice Department indicted Jayson Penn, chief executive of Pilgrim's Pride and three others in June in its first charges in the criminal investigation over broiler birds price-fixing.


New court documents on October 6 showed William Lovette, former CEO of Pilgrim's Pride has been added to the indictment list. Lovette and Pilgrim's Pride did not respond to requests for comment.


The government probe was initiated after grocers, retailers and consumers filed a lawsuit accusing major poultry producers Pilgrim's Pride, Tyson Foods, and other poultry processors of working together to inflate broiler chicken prices.


Makan Delrahim, chief of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division, said executives will be held to account if involved in activities that cheat consumers and affect competition such as collusion.


Jayson Penn had pleaded not guilty. He succeeded Lovette in 2019 as CEO.


Pilgrim's Pride said last month that Penn was replaced by Fabio Sandri, chief financial offer of the company. Pilgrim's Pride is majority owned by major Brazilian meatpacker JBS SA.


Based on the court documents, the industry executives allegedly worked together to fix chicken prices between 2012 to 2019.


Timothy Mulrenin, a sales executive was also accused. Mulrenin worked at Tyson Foods during the time of the allegations, and was hired by Purdue Farms in 2018. Mulrenin was unreachable for comment and Purdue Farms declined to comment.


In June, Tyson Foods said it will cooperate with the US Justice Department's probe under a corporate leniency programme. This would give the company protection against criminal prosecution.


Gary Mickelson, spokesman for Tyson Foods said the new indictment does not affect Tyson Foods' leniency application status.


-      Reuters