A federal grand jury in Denver, Colorado, has returned an indictment charging Koch Foods, headquartered in Park Ridge, Illinois, for participating in a nationwide conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chicken products. Separately, a federal grand jury in Denver returned an indictment charging four executives for their roles in the same conspiracy while employed by Pilgrim’s Pride.
According to court documents, the four charged Pilgrim’s Pride executives are Jason McGuire, a former executive vice president of sales for Prepared Foods; Timothy Stiller, a former general manager of Fresh Food Services and Small Bird Debone; Wesley “Scott” Tucker, a national accounts sales executive; and Justin Gay, director of Fresh Foodservice Sales.
The indictments allege that the defendants and co-conspirators conspired to suppress and eliminate competition for sales of broiler chicken products. Koch’s senior vice president, William Kantola, is among ten individuals indicted in October 2020 for their roles in the conspiracy. On May 19, a grand jury returned an indictment against Claxton Poultry for its role in the same conspiracy, which today’s indictment supersedes. Pilgrim’s Pride, a major broiler chicken producer based in Greeley, Colorado, pleaded guilty and was sentenced in February 2021 to pay a criminal fine of $107 million for its role in the conspiracy. The long-running conspiracy began as early as 2012 and lasted until at least 2019.
“As today’s charges show, the division remains committed to holding both individuals and companies accountable when they choose profits over following the law,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Richard Powers of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “Our investigation into criminal price fixing of broiler chickens continues, and we will not stop until we ensure that wrongdoers are held accountable and competition is restored to this critical industry.”
Assistant Director in Charge Steven D’Antuono of the FBI Washington Field Office stated, “Price fixing is not a victimless crime, and the illegal actions taken by these companies and individuals in the broiler chicken industry have had a direct and negative impact on the American consumer. The FBI is committed to pursuing those who violate antitrust laws, harming the nation’s free and competitive marketplace all for their own monetary gain.”
Koch Foods, McGuire, Stiller, Tucker and Gay are each charged with a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Defendants McGuire, Stiller, Tucker and Gay will make their initial court appearances on Aug. 11 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Crews of the U.S. District Court for Colorado. Koch Foods’ initial appearance has not yet been scheduled.
The Sherman Act carries a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals, and a $100 million fine for corporations. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by victims, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.