The Department of Justice announced indictments on Wednesday against four executives who were allegedly involved in a conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chickens.
Jayson Penn, Roger Austin, Mikell Fries, and Scott Brady were each charged with one antitrust charge in federal court. Penn is the President and Chief Executive Officer, and Austin is a former Vice President, of Pilgrim’s Pride, a chicken supplier headquartered in Colorado. Fries is the President and a member of the board, and Brady is a Vice President, of Claxton Poultry, a broiler chicken producer headquartered in Georgia.
According to Pilgrim’s Pride, it provides 20% of all chicken consumed in the United States. Claxton Poultry says it produces 300 million pounds of poultry a year, and is a supplier for Chick-fil-A.
The DOJ alleges that the foursome's actions caused chicken prices at restaurants and grocery stores to be impacted.
“Particularly in times of global crisis, the division remains committed to prosecuting crimes intended to raise the prices Americans pay for food,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “Executives who cheat American consumers, restauranteurs, and grocers, and compromise the integrity of our food supply, will be held responsible for their actions.”
The executives face a maximum sentence of 10 years, and a $1 million fine, if convicted.
Broiler chickens are chickens raised for human consumption and sold to grocers and restaurants.
A request for comment has been left for Pilgrim’s Pride.