A suite of ex-brass from one of the nation’s top chicken processors were hit with federal indictments for engaging in anti-competitive practices on Thursday—one day after lawmakers brought heat on its parent company over consolidation in the nation’s food chain.
A grand jury in Denver charged four former top executives from Pilgrim’s Pride in an alleged price- and bid-rigging scheme that the Department of Justice asserted also involved the Illinois-based Koch Foods. Pilgrim’s Pride as a company pleaded guilty to participating in the conspiracy in February, and coughed up a $107 million fine.
Pilgrim’s Pride is majority-owned by Brazil-based JBS, the world’s biggest protein producer, which testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday on the increasingly oligopolized American meat industry. A cyber attack earlier this year obligated JBS to idle its facilities across the country, disrupting the food supply. Two top JBS shareholders, Joesley and Wesley Batista, confessed to the Securities and Exchange Commission last year that their company had acquired Pilgrim’s Pride with Brazilian government loans obtained through bribery. In a statement to The Daily Beast, a spokesman for Pilgrim’s Pride and JBS noted the four accused men had exited the company—while not acknowledging its own previous guilty plea.
“Pilgrim’s is committed to upholding high ethical standards in full compliance with U.S. antitrust laws,” said Cameron Bruett, head of corporate affairs at JBS. “Pilgrim’s continues to fully cooperate with the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation, and we remain committed to fair and honest competition that benefits both customers and consumers.”
Koch Foods did not immediately reply to a request for comment.