The CEO of Bumble Bee foods was indicted late Wednesday by a federal grand jury for his role in a conspiracy to fix tuna prices on the international market.
Christopher Lischewski was indicted on a count of conspiracy. The Department of Justice alleged Lischewski and others conspired to issue price announcements and guidance to fix, raise and maintain the price of tuna from 2011 through 2013.
Bumble Bee itself pleaded guilty last year to one count of pricing fixing and agreed to pay a criminal fine of $25 million.
Mr. Lischewski is the fourth individual to be charged as a result of the ongoing federal antitrust investigation into the packaged seafood industry.
A group of businesses who buy tuna products, including retailers, food service companies and also consumers, have filed a civil suit against the tuna cartel. The lawsuit alleges price-fixing allegations against Bumble Bee, StarKist & Co., and Tri Union Seafoods.
Those three companies have long dominated the U.S. tuna market. In December 2015, the Justice Department stopped Tri Union from buying Bumble Bee, a deal that would have merged the nation’s first and second largest tuna manufacturers.
“This indictment demonstrates the personal accountability of senior leadership at corporations,” said Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett. “The FBI and the Department of Justice will hold corporate leaders accountable for criminal actions that defraud American families.”
Mr. Lischewski’s attorney, John Keker of Keker Van Nest & Peters said his client is “innocent of any wrongdoing.”
“We are disappointed by the DOJ’s decision to charge him with criminal conduct,” Mr. Keker said in a statement. “When the facts are known and the truth emerges, Mr. Lischewski will be found not guilty, and that vindication will rightfully restore his good name.”