The saga of one-time American food icon Bumble Bee Tuna continues to be a sorry tale as the company’s former CEO Christopher Lischewski was convicted Tuesday for conspiring to fix prices of canned tuna from November 2010 until December 2013. Lischewski stepped down from running the company in May of 2018 following his indictment.
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"Today’s verdict reaffirms the Division’s commitment to rooting out collusion that robs American consumers of the benefits of competition when they purchase household staples like canned tuna,” Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division said of the conviction in a statement.
The court action comes just about two weeks after the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. The company has been drowning in the aftermath of a price-fixing scandal -- along with competitors Starkist and Chicken of the Sea -- for the better part of two years. In 2017, Bumble Bee paid $25 million in fines levied by the Department of Justice.
Bumble Bee and its competitors engineered the price-fixing scandal at the same time the industry started seeing a decline in sales. Fears of mercury poisoning and news reports of lovable dolphins ensnared in tuna nets contributed to Americans finding an alternative at lunch. "Americans have fallen out of love with canned tuna," Virginia Lee, a senior industry analyst at Euromonitor, told the Washington Post.
The Justice Department's investigation of collusion in the market for packaged seafood is ongoing. Anyone with information on price fixing, bid rigging or other anticompetitive conduct related to the packaged-seafood industry should contact the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office at (415) 934-5300 or visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html.