StarKist Co., the US seafood arm of South Korea’s Dongwon Group, has filed a plea of guilty on price-fixing charges, the Justice Department has announced.
According to a charge filed at in the US District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco, StarKist and its co-conspirators agreed to fix the prices of canned tuna fish from as early as November 2011, through at least as late as December 2013, the department said.
As well as pleading guilty, StarKist, which faces a fine of up to US$100m, has “agreed to cooperate in the investigation”, a statement from the DoJ added.
The US government has been investigating allegations of price-fixing of canned tuna products. In May 2017, another supplier, Bumble Bee Foods, agreed to plead guilty to one count of fixing prices and to pay a fine of $25m. Two Bumble Bee executives and one former StarKist executive also agreed to issue guilty pleas.
In September 2017, seafood giant Thai Union Group confirmed it was the whistleblower in the US investigation into claims of price-fixing in the country’s tuna sector.
Allegations tuna suppliers in the US had fixed prices emerged in 2015. A lawyer for one of the plaintiffs suggested at the time “suspicious activity” could have emerged when the DoJ reviewed the potential impact on competition of Thai Union’s move to buy Bumble Bee, a move announced in late 2014. Thai Union called off the planned deal in December 2015.