While farmers and ranchers are working hard to feed a growing population while gaining little support or monetary compensation, one company is in trouble for fixing prices. Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. — a major broiler chicken producer based in Greeley, Colorado, and majority owned by Brazilian Beef producer, JBS — has pleaded guilty and has been sentenced to pay approximately $107 million in criminal fines for its participation in a conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chicken products.
According to the plea agreement entered in the U.S. District Court in Denver, from as early as 2012 and continuing at least into 2017, Pilgrim’s participated in a conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition for sales of broiler chicken products in the United States that affected at least $361 million in Pilgrim’s sales of broiler chicken products. The extra expenses were passed on to customers and other purchasers.
The District Court accepted Pilgrim’s guilty plea and sentenced the company to pay a criminal fine of $107,923,572.
“Today’s guilty plea demonstrates our unwavering commitment to prosecuting companies that violate the nation’s antitrust laws, especially when it involves something as central to everyday life as the food we eat,” said Richard Powers, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.
Pilgrim’s is the first company to plead guilty for its role in a conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chicken products. Broiler chickens are chickens raised for human consumption and sold to grocers and restaurants. Ten executives and employees at major broiler chicken producers have also previously been charged. The investigation remains ongoing.
Steven M. D’Antuono, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office, said, “These criminal acts cheat American workers and consumers while harming competitive markets. This ongoing investigation has yielded charges against 10 individuals for their efforts to illegally manipulate broiler chicken prices.”
This case is the result of an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging, and other anticompetitive conduct in the broiler chicken industry, which is being conducted by the Antitrust Division with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Commerce OIG, FBI Washington Field Office, and USDA OIG.