StarKist Co., the US-based seafood unit of South Korea’s Dungwon Group, has been ordered to pay a US$100m fine for its role in a price-fixing conspiracy despite previously claiming such an amount would push it into bankruptcy.

The penalty was imposed by the United States District Court for the Northern District of California by judge Edward Chen, Pennsylvania-based StarKist, the owner of brands such as Tuna Creations and Salmon Creations, said in a statement.   

StarKist faced charges of colluding to fix the price of canned tuna from around late 2011 to late 2013 under an investigation by the US Department of Justice (DoJ), and pleaded guilty to the charges last October. Bumble Bee Foods, another US business involved in the case, also previously admitted the charges and submitted a guilty plea.

“This sentence brings to an end StarKist’s involvement in the DoJ’s investigation and resolves all outstanding criminal antitrust issues for the company,” StarKist said in the statement.

StarKist had previously asked Judge Chen to reduce the fine to $50m, arguing $100m would bankrupt the firm. However, CBS News reported Chen decided the company had enough assets, along with the ability to borrow the money to pay the fine, as well as the legal recourse if it runs into trouble. 

Andrew Choe, the president and chief executive of StarKist, said: “We have cooperated with the DoJ during the course of its investigation and accept responsibility. StarKist is committed to being a socially-responsible company and doing the right thing. We will continue to conduct our business with the utmost transparency and integrity.   

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