October 15, 2020


Pilgrim's Pride agrees plea deal with US Justice Department over price-fixing charges


Major United States poultry firm Pilgrim's Pride has agreed to a plea deal with the US Justice Department and will pay a US$110.5 million fine over price-fixing charges on chicken products, Reuters reported.


Pilgrim's Pride's guilty plea makes it the first poultry company in the US to have reached an agreement with the government over chicken price-fixing allegations. Poultry industry executives have allegedly worked together to increase chicken prices between 2012 to 2019.


The company is majority owned by Brazilian meatpacker JBS SA.


According to a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing, Pilgrim's Pride agreed to a guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to limit competition in chicken product sales. A statement from Pilgrim's Pride said the agreement encompasses three chicken contracts with one customer in the US.


The statement said the US Antitrust Division will not bring any further charges against Pilgrim's Pride as part of the plea deal.


The company's shares increased to US$16.63 on October 14, 6.1% up.


Fabio Sandri, chief executive officer of Pilgrim's Pride said the company is encouraged that the agreement ends the investigation into Pilgrim's by the Antitrust Division.


The plea agreement is subject to the US District Court of Colorado approval.


In June this year, former Pilgrim's Pride chief executive officer, Jayson Penn, was charged along with other current and former chicken industry executives for allegedly working together to fix chicken meat prices. Penn has pleaded not guilty to the charges.


The government last week expanded the probe and charged more industry executives, such as Bill Lovette, Pilgrim's Pride chief executive officer before Penn.


Tyson Foods said it was working together with department investigations in June under a corporate leniency programme that protects the company against criminal prosecution.


JBS said it will separately pay a US$26.9 million fine in an agreement with the SEC over Pilgrim's Pride's books violations. Prosecutors said JBS' parent company, parent J&F Investimentos will pay US$256 million after pleading guilty to US Foreign Corruption Practices Act violations.


-      Reuters