Four former executives of US poultry processor Pilgrim’s Pride have been formally charged by a federal court in Denver for their role in a conspiracy to fix broiler chicken prices in a long-running case dating back to 2012.
Separately, the same grand jury this week returned an indictment against Illinois-based Koch Foods for its participation in the same price-fixing case.
Jason McGuire, a former EVP for prepared food sales at Greeley, Colorado-based Pilgrim’s Pride, and Timothy Stiller, who served as a general manager of fresh food services, have been indicted in the case brought by the US Department of Justice (DoJ).
Wesley Tucker, a former sales executive, and Justin Gay, once a director of fresh foodservice sales, complete the four company executives charged.
The indictments allege the “defendants and co-conspirators conspired to suppress and eliminate competition” for sales of broiler chicken products sold to retailers and restaurants in the US, according to a DoJ statement.
Other executives and US chicken processors have previously been charged in the conspiracy, which started as early as 2012 and ran to at least 2019, the DoJ claimed.
William Kantola, Koch’s senior vice president, was among ten individuals indicted in October 2020, including former Pilgrim’s Pride executives Jayson Penn and Bill Lovette, as well as Roger Austin, an ex-Pilgrim’s vice president, Mikell Fries, the president of Georgia-based Claxton Poultry, and Scott Brady, a vice president at the same firm.
Claxton Poultry has again been indicted this week in a decision that supersedes the former charge.
Pilgrim’s Pride, meanwhile, had previously pleaded guilty for its role in the case and was fined US$107m in February.
Richard Powers, the acting assistant attorney general for the DoJ’s Antitrust Division, said it “remains committed to holding both individuals and companies accountable when they choose profits over following the law”.
He added: “Our investigation into criminal price-fixing of broiler chickens continues, and we will not stop until we ensure that wrongdoers are held accountable and competition is restored to this critical industry.”