Six additional poultry industry executives were indicted on anti-trust charges in the ongoing chicken price-fixing probe by the U.S. Department of Justice. The indictments were handed out Wednesday (Oct. 7) by a federal grand jury in the U.S. District Court in Denver.
The charges claim the defendants conspired to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chicken products from 2012 through 2019 and there are additional allegations against the previously charged defendants in the same conspiracy.
“The division will not tolerate collusion that inflates prices American shoppers and diners pay for food,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “Executives who choose collusion over competition will be held to account for schemes that cheat consumers and corrupt our competitive markets. The division will also continue to charge those who knowingly lie to our law enforcement partners and obstruct our investigations — such conduct undermines our criminal justice system and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Scott Kieffer, the assistant inspector general for commerce department, said to date there have been 10 individuals charged for their participation in the conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids. The six additional defendants are Timothy Mulrenin, William Kantola, Jimmie Little, William Lovette, Gary Roberts, and Rickie Blake.
Mulrenin was a sales executive at a Purdue in Maryland from May 2018 to 2020 and a sales executive at Tyson Foods from 2014 to 2018. Kantola was a sales executive at Koch Foods, Little was a sales director at Pilgrim’s Pride, Lovette was President and CEO at Pilgrim’s Pride, and Roberts was an employee at a chicken supplier headquartered in North Carolina and a manager and director at a chicken supplier headquartered in Arkansas. Roberts’ employers were not identified. Blake was a director and manager at George’s Inc.
Wednesday’s indictments come after four other executives were charged earlier this year. Those defendants are Pilgrim’s CEO Jayden Penn, Roger Austin, a vice president at Pilgrim’s, and two executives from Georgia-based Claxton Poultry – Mikell Fries, president and board members and Scott Brady, a vice president of national accounts.
Tyson Foods said in June the company had been implicated in the ongoing case, but the company received a grant of leniency because if self-reported information regarding the case in 2019. Then-CEO Noel White said Tyson was committed to competing vigorously, honestly and in compliance with the letter and spirit of the antitrust laws enforced by the DOJ. George’s Inc. did not respond to a request for comment on this ongoing suit.