Former Starkist executive pleads guilty to price-fixing

It's the third such plea in an ongoing investigation into artificially inflated tuna prices

Back in May, a criminal complaint alleged that Bumble Bee, Starkist, and Chicken of the Sea engaged in price-fixing practices to drive up the cost of their tuna products. Two Bumble Bee executives admitted to fixing prices from 2011 to 2013 and agreed to pay $25 million.

Now, former Starkist senior vice president of sales Stephen Hodge has also pleaded guilty to the charges, admitting that he and other executives discussed and agreed upon prices for their products to keep figures artificially high. He has agreed to cooperate with the investigation, pay a criminal fine, and will be sentenced in court at a later date, the Department of Justice said.

“With today’s plea, the Antitrust Division continues to send a strong signal that senior executives will be held accountable for their actions,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Andrew Finch of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “The division, along with our law enforcement colleagues, will continue to investigate price fixing among packaged seafood companies and the executives who worked at those companies.”

While Hodge’s plea is undoubtedly a win for the Justice Department, the official investigation into the price-fixing practices is far from over. A suit filed by Walmart claims that these practices actually spanned from 2010 to 2015, two more years than the defendants have said.

“The FBI will not tolerate the reprehensible behavior of company executives who abuse the trust of the American public for personal gain,” said FBI San Francisco Division Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett. “We, along with our Justice Department partners, are dedicated to our ongoing investigations into price fixing and will bring these companies to justice.”

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