Livestock News Poultry

Broiler chicken producer indicted on price fixing

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The case involving an alleged multi-million-dollar broiler chicken price fixing and bid-rigging scheme will move forward. A federal grand jury in Denver, Colorado, returned an indictment charging Norman W. Fries Inc., which operates as Claxton Poultry Farms, headquartered in Claxton, Georgia, with participating in a nationwide conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chicken products.

According to court documents, from at least as early as 2012 until at least 2019, Claxton and co-conspirators, including current President Mikell Fries and current Vice President Scott Brady, conspired to suppress and eliminate competition for sales of broiler chicken products, which are raised for human consumption and sold to grocers and restaurants. Fries and Brady are among 10 individuals charged in a superseding indictment in October 2020 for their roles in the conspiracy. Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, a major broiler chicken producer based in Greeley, Colorado, pleaded guilty and was sentenced in February 2021 to pay a criminal fine over $107 million for its role in the conspiracy.

“As this charge shows, we will not hesitate to prosecute crimes designed to put money in corporate coffers and line executives’ pockets at the expense of everyday Americans, including the hundreds of millions of us who rely on chicken to be an affordable staple food,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Richard A. Powers of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.

Claxton is charged with a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. If convicted, Claxton faces a statutory maximum fine for corporations of $100 million.

“Today’s announcement is yet another example of the dedication of the FBI and its partners to root out corrupt individuals and companies who collude to inflate prices and attempt to eliminate fair markets,” said Assistant Director in Charge Steven M. D’Antuono of the FBI Washington Field Office. “This anti-competitive behavior will not be tolerated and the FBI will work to hold people and companies accountable for their criminal actions.”

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 Department of Commerce Office of Inspector General, the FBI’s Washington Field Office, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General.

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