GREELEY, COLO. – Poultry processor Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. has entered a plea agreement with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) over charges the company engaged in a price fixing scheme that took place between 2012 and 2017. As part of the agreement the company will pay $110.5 million and provides that the DOJ’s Antitrust division will bring no further charges related to the case.
The agreement must be approved by the United States District Court of Colorado.
“Pilgrim’s is committed to fair and honest competition in compliance with US antitrust laws,” said Fabio Sandri, chief executive officer of Pilgrim’s Pride. “We are encouraged that today’s agreement concludes the Antitrust Division’s investigation into Pilgrim’s, providing certainty regarding this matter to our team members, suppliers, customers and shareholders.”
The DOJ’s investigation led to the indictment of Pilgrim’s Pride’s past leaders. Jayson Penn, the former CEO, was indicted this past June. He took a leave of absence at the time and was replaced by Sandri in September.
In October, the DOJ announced charges against William Lovette, former president and CEO of the company, and Penn’s predecessor, and several other company executives.
To date, 10 poultry industry executives who are working or have worked for Pilgrim’s Pride and several other poultry processors, have been charged in the case. The charges state the executives entered into and engaged in a continuing combination and conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition by rigging bids and fixing prices and other price-related terms for broiler chicken products sold in the United States.
Other executives charged have worked for Claxton, Ga.-based Claxton Poultry. Tyson Foods Inc., Springdale, Ark., said this past June that it was cooperating with the investigation. After receiving a grand jury subpoena in April 2019, Tyson said it uncovered troubling information about its operations related to the investigation and self-reported it to the DOJ. Company management is hoping to escape punishment under the DOJ Antitrust Division’s leniency program.
Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. is a unit of São Paulo, Brazil-based JBS SA, the world’s largest meat packer. The company said it will record the fine as a miscellaneous expense when it releases its third quarter results on Oct. 29.