Pilgrim’s Pride reaches plea deal with justice department on chicken price-fixing allegations
- Pilgrim’s Pride, the second-largest U.S. chicken processor by sales, has agreed to a plea deal with the U.S. Justice Department to resolve price-fixing charges. The company will pay a fine of $110.5 million.
- Pilgrim’s is owned primarily by Brazilian meat giant JBS and has been at the center of the U.S. government’s wide-ranging probe of the $65 billion U.S. chicken industry.
- Prosecutors have accused the company of coordinating with other parties to suppress competition in the chicken market from 2012 to early 2019.
- This guilty plea makes Pilgrim’s the first company to actually admit in court to what prosecutors have alleged was approximately a seven-year effort to inflate prices across the majority of the U.S. chicken industry.
- The plea agreement states that the Justice Department will bring no more charges against Pilgrim’s, and doesn’t recommend an outside compliance monitor. Furthermore, the agreement doesn’t require any restitution or a probationary period, according to the company.
- The agreement is subject to the approval of the U.S. District Court of Colorado.
- Tyson Foods Inc., Perdue Farms Inc., Koch Foods Inc. and Claxton Poultry Farms have also had current and former employees charged. The DOJ claims a warm relationship between C-suite executives and midlevel sales officials across the industry, which has led to price manipulation.
- Tyson, the largest U.S. chicken company by sales, has been cooperating with the government’s investigation under a corporate leniency program.
- Pilgrim’s has been cooperating with Justice Department lawyers, according to individuals associated with the investigation. The company provided information to investigators that helped the government expand its case, and as a result, Pilgrim’s is receiving a smaller fine for their cooperation.
- The company plans to record this fine as a miscellaneous expense in its financial statements in the third quarter of 2020.
- In 2019, Pilgrim’s earned $456 million in profits on $11.4 billion in sales.
Owners of meatpacker JBS to pay $280 million fine over foreign bribery charges
- J&F Investimentos, the Brazilian parent company of meatpacking conglomerate JBS SA ran by Brazilian nationals Joesley Batista and Wesley Batista, have agreed to pay more than $280 million in fines to the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to settle charges it violated federal anti-corruption laws.
- On Wednesday, J&F agreed to pay a $256 million fine to the Justice Department over charges it violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by using funds acquired through a bribery scheme to expand its U.S. operations.
- Federal prosecutors alleged that JBS carried out bribes and other activities by using U.S.-based bank accounts, shell companies and a $1.5 million Manhattan apartment in an enormous bribery scheme involving funding from Brazilian banks.
- In 2019, the Batistas admitted to spending approximately $150 million to bribe more than 1,800 Brazilian government officials to secure $1.3 billion in loans from the Brazilian Development Bank and federal pension funds.
- According to Assistant Attorney General Brian Rabbitt, executives at the very highest levels of JBS used U.S. banks and real estate to pay tens of millions of dollars in bribes to corrupt Brazilian government officials in order to obtain hundreds of millions of dollars in financing for the company and its affiliates.
- The SEC also fined J&F and the Batistas $27 million to settle charges it used the illegally obtained money to finance the purchase of poultry producer Pilgrim’s Pride in 2009.
- Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have questioned the Trump administration for giving JBS at least $90 million in aid that was intended to help U.S. farmers struggling due to the president’s trade war with China.
- JBS claims that money went to farmers who sold their animals directly to the company for processing and distribution.
- The Occupational Health and Safety Administration has also joined the party and fined JBS $15,000 for failing to take proper coronavirus precautions after six employees died and more than 300 tested positive for Covid-19 at its Greeley, CO plant.
Boxed beef prices
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