Pilgrim’s Pride pled guilty in federal court in Denver on Tuesday (Feb. 23) for its part in a price-collusion scheme for chicken sold to customers such as Chick-fil-A and Walmart. The company was ordered by the U.S. Department of Justice to pay $107.92 million in criminal fines.
The DOJ said the conspiracy affected at least $361 million in Pilgrim’s sales since 2008. Pilgrim’s had previously agreed to pay fines totaling about $110 million, but U.S. District Judge Raymond Moore issued a smaller fine based on the company’s willingness to assist with the investigation.
Richard Powers, acting assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, said the guilty plea demonstrates the government’s “unwavering commitment to prosecuting companies that violate the nation’s antitrust laws, especially when it involves something as central to everyday life as the food we eat.”
The investigation has led the government to charge 10 individuals for their roles in the price-fixing ring, all 10 of whom have pleaded not guilty, including former Pilgrim’s Pride CEOs Jayson Penn and Bill Lovette and former sales executives William Kantola and Jimmie Little. Other companies implicated by the investigation include Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms, Claxton Poultry and Sanderson Farms whose settlements have not yet been disclosed.
Tyson Foods and Pilgrim’s have settled civil claims from plaintiffs such as Kroger, Walmart, and Chick-fil-A in federal court in January. Tyson agreed to pay $222.5 million and Pilgrim’s agreed to $75 million.