ShapeShapeauthorShapechevroncrossShapeShapeShapeGrouphamburgerhomeGroupmagnifyShapeShapeShaperssShape

Fallout from Pilgrim’s Pride plea agreement

US poultry company Pilgrim’s Pride Corp has agreed to pay a $110.5 million fine after striking a plea deal with the Justice Department over price-fixing charges on broiler chicken products.

15 October 2020, at 8:16am

Reuters reports that the guilty plea makes Pilgrim’s Pride, which is majority owned by meatpacker JBS SA, the first US chicken company to reach an agreement with the US government over allegations that industry executives conspired to increase chicken prices from 2012 through 2019.

Pilgrim’s Pride agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to limit competition in chicken product sales, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing. A company statement said the agreement covered three chicken contracts with one U.S. customer.

As part of the deal, the department's Antitrust Division will not bring more charges against Pilgrim's Pride in the case, the statement said. Shares jumped 6.1 percent to $16.63 on the afternoon of 14 October.

The Antitrust Division confirmed it reached a plea agreement with Pilgrim's Pride and declined further comment until the deal is filed. It is subject to the approval of the US District Court of Colorado.

The former CEO of Pilgrim's Pride, Jayson Penn, was indicted in June, along with other current and former industry executives, on charges of seeking to fix chicken meat prices. Penn has pleaded not guilty.

Last week, the government broadened the probe by indicting more industry executives, including Bill Lovette, who preceded Penn as CEO of Pilgrim's Pride.

Rival supplier Tyson Foods Inc said in June it was cooperating with the department's investigation under a corporate leniency program that could protect the company from criminal prosecution.

Separately, JBS said it will pay a $26.9 million fine after making a deal with the SEC over violations related to Pilgrim's Pride's books, and prosecutors said JBS parent J&F Investimentos will pay $256 million after pleading guilty to violating the US Foreign Corruption Practices Act.

Read more about this story here.