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Buyers Settle with StarKist Over Tuna Price-Fixing Allegations

Buyers Settle with StarKist Over Tuna Price-Fixing Allegations Bumble Bee Foods, StarKist Co., Thai Union Group Food and Beverage Business

StarKist, along with its South Korean parent company, Dongwon Industries, and Lion Capital, the former owner of Bumble Bee Foods, have settled a civil lawsuit in the US over alleged price-fixing of canned tuna. The settlement was reached with end-payer and direct-purchaser plaintiffs in the US District Court for the Southern District of California.

The charges against StarKist and Bumble Bee involved colluding to fix the price of canned tuna from late 2011 to late 2013. Both companies pleaded guilty to the charges under an investigation by the US Department of Justice (DOJ). The terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but the plaintiffs had been seeking up to $1bn in damages. US Magistrate Judge Michael S. Berg has given both plaintiff classes until 25 July to make motions for preliminary approval of the settlement.

In a related development, in 2019, StarKist was fined $100m for its involvement in the case. Thai Union emerged as the company that exposed the price-fixing saga, which began with allegations of tuna suppliers in the US fixing prices in 2015. A lawyer for one of the plaintiffs suggested that “suspicious activity” may have emerged when the DOJ reviewed the potential impact on competition of Thai Union’s move to acquire Bumble Bee in late 2014. Thai Union eventually called off the planned deal in December 2015.

Furthermore, in 2020, Bumble Bee Foods’ former chief executive Chris Lischewski was sentenced to more than three years in jail for his role in the conspiracy. Lischewski was charged in May 2018 by a federal grand jury in San Francisco and underwent a four-week trial the following year. Reports indicate that he was released last year.

 

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