Chris Lischewski fixed prices of canned tuna that affected hundreds of millions of dollars in sales throughout the United States.
A California federal jury has found Lischewski guilty of price fixing, the US’ Department of Justice wrote in a press release on Tuesday.
He now faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of USD 1 million. He may also face more class-action lawsuits against Bumble Bee and related parties.
In addition to Bumble Bee and StarKist, four individuals, including Lischewski, have been charged in the investigation. The other three individuals pled guilty and testified in Lischewski’s trial.
Last year, former CEO Christopher Lischewski stepped down from his role in 2015 following an indictment brought by the U.S. Department of Justice in regard to his alleged part in a price-fixing conspiracy from 2011 to 2013.
According to evidence presented at trial, Lischewski participated in a conspiracy to fix prices of canned tuna that affected hundreds of millions of dollars in sales throughout the United States. He also authorized and supervised his subordinates’ participation in the conspiracy. Lischewski and his co-conspirators employed measures to conceal their conspiratorial conduct, including meeting at offsite locations, using third-party e-mail addresses, and discouraging retention of documents concerning the conspiracy.
USD 100m fine
StarKist Co. plead guilty for its role in 2018 and was ordered to a USD 100m fine.
The Guardian reports that authorities found out about the price fixing scheme when Thai Union Group’s Chicken of the Sea attempted to buy San Diego-based Bumble Bee failed in 2015. Chicken of the Sea executives then alerted federal investigators, who then received conditional leniency from the Justice Department for its cooperation with the investigation.
“Today’s verdict reaffirms the Division’s commitment to rooting out collusion that robs American consumers of the benefits of competition when they purchase household staples like canned tuna,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.
“The jury’s verdict is a reminder that no one, including members of the C-Suite, is above the law. Executives who conspire to cheat consumers for their own benefit will be held accountable for their illegal conduct,” he added.
In November, San Diego-based Bumble Bee Foods filed for bankruptcy two years after the company plead guilty.
The company, now under the helm of CEO Jan Tharp, agreed to sell the company’s assets to Taiwan-based FCF Co for USD 925 million.
Bumble Bee – owner of the largest North American brand of packaged seafood – sells canned and pouched tuna, salmon, sardines, and specialty seafood products under the brands Bumble Bee, Brunswick, Snow’s, Wild Selections and Beach Cliff.