Feds indict former execs with Tyson Foods, George’s Inc. and other companies in price-fixing suit
by Kim Souza, Talk Business & Politics
Oct 9, 2020
Six additional poultry industry executives were indicted on anti-trust charges in the ongoing chicken price-fixing probe by the U.S. Department of Justice. The indictments were handed out Wednesday (Oct. 7) by a federal grand jury in the U.S. District Court in Denver.
The charges claim the defendants conspired to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chicken products from 2012 through 2019 and there are additional allegations against the previously charged defendants in the same conspiracy.
“The division will not tolerate collusion that inflates prices American shoppers and diners pay for food,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “Executives who choose collusion over competition will be held to account for schemes that cheat consumers and corrupt our competitive markets. The division will also continue to charge those who knowingly lie to our law enforcement partners and obstruct our investigations — such conduct undermines our criminal justice system and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Scott Kieffer, the assistant inspector general for commerce department, said to date there have been 10 individuals charged for their participation in the conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids. The six additional defendants are Timothy Mulrenin, William Kantola, Jimmie Little, William Lovette, Gary Roberts, and Rickie Blake.
Mulrenin was a sales executive at a Purdue in Maryland from May 2018 to 2020 and a sales executive at Tyson Foods from 2014 to 2018. Kantola was a sales executive at Koch Foods, Little was a sales director at Pilgrim’s Pride, Lovette was President and CEO at Pilgrim’s Pride, and Roberts was an employee at a chicken supplier headquartered in North Carolina and a manager and director at a chicken supplier headquartered in Arkansas. Roberts’ employers were not identified. Blake was a director and manager at George’s Inc.
Wednesday’s indictments come after four other executives were charged earlier this year. Those defendants are...
Expanded U.S. Chicken Probe Points to Tyson’s Involvement
Michael Hirtzer, Bloomberg News
via Bloomberg Law - Oct. 7, 2020
Federal prosecutors expanded a probe into price-fixing in the U.S. chicken industry, shedding light on the involvement of top producer Tyson Foods Inc., which is cooperating with the investigation.
Tyson delivered a bombshell in June when the company said it was cooperating with the U.S. Justice Department’s investigation. The admission came just after executives at Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., the second-biggest chicken producer, were indicted in the scheme. Left out, however, was how Tyson was involved.
A new indictment, filed in federal court on Tuesday, makes the connection a bit clearer. Six more executives and managers, including two former Tyson workers, were accused of conspiring with the four initially indicted in June in a years-long effort to rig bids and fix chicken prices.
The allegations are the latest legal entanglement for American meat producers over how their products are priced and how workers are treated in the plants that turn animals into food. The industry already has been reeling from Covid-19 outbreaks that shut down slaughter plants and eroded beef, poultry and pork production earlier this year.
Tyson declined to comment on the latest indictment, pointing to a June 10 statement that said it had uncovered information pertaining to the investigation and immediately alerted the DOJ and was applying for leniency in the matter.
While the indictment doesn’t name Tyson, it states that two of the indicted, Timothy Mulrenin and Gary Brian Roberts, worked at “Supplier-3,” a company headquartered in Arkansas -- where Tyson is based in the town of Springdale.
Mulrenin was a director of sales at Tyson prior to moving to Perdue Farms in 2018, while Roberts was a vice president at Tyson prior to joining Case Foods Inc., according to their LinkedIn pages. The indictment also mentioned but did not name two additional employees at Supplier-3.
Pilgrim’s Pride didn’t reply to a request for comment. Perdue declined to comment. The National Chicken Council said it does not comment on legal matters of its members. Mulrenin and Roberts didn’t reply to messages on LinkedIn.
Using phone records and text messages, the indictment alleges the two former Tyson employees worked with other poultry companies including Pilgrim’s to fix prices for chicken sold to quick-serve restaurants between 2012 and 2019.