Poultry giant Pilgrim’s Pride has agreed to pay a fine of $110.5 million to settle charges from the U.S. Department of Justice that executives at the company conspired to fix prices and rig bids on broiler chicken products.
In June, Pilgrim’s Pride chief executive officer Jayson Penn and vice president Roger Austin, along with two executives at Claxton Poultry Farms, were indicted by a grand jury in Colorado over the conspiracy to rig prices on the chickens, which are sold to grocery stores and restaurants. Prosecutors said the anti-competitive behavior began as early as 2012 and continue to until at least early 2017.
Penn began a paid leave of absence in June in order to focus on his defense. According to The Wall Street Journal, he left the company in September.
“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 company said in a statement.
Pilgrim’s said the agreement to settle the charges, which affected three contracts with one U.S. customer, did not recommend a monitor or require restitution or probation. It also included an agreement that the Justice Department’s antitrust division would bring no further charges against Pilgrim’s, provided the company complied with the terms.
Pilgrim’s named Fabio Sandri, the former chief financial officer, as CEO replacing Penn on September 23.
“Pilgrim’s is committed to fair and honest competition in compliance with U.S. antitrust laws,” Sandri said in a statement. “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 plea agreement is subject to the approval of the United States District Court of Colorado.
Pilgrim’s is the second-largest broiler chicken supplier in the U.S.
The company’s stock was up more than 5% in trading Wednesday morning.
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