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Bumble Bee pleads guilty to price fixing canned tuna

Department of Justice said company will pay $25 million criminal fine for conspiring with others.

Bumble Bee Foods LLC agreed to plead guilty for its role in a conspiracy to fix the prices of shelf-stable tuna fish, such as canned and pouch tuna, sold in the United States, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ) Monday.

Bumble Bee agreed to pay a $25 million (€22.9 million) criminal fine, which can increase up to $81.5 million (€74.5 million) "in the event of a sale of Bumble Bee subject to certain terms and conditions.

The company will cooperate with the Antitrust Division’s ongoing investigation.

Bumble Bee and its co-conspirators agreed to fix prices as early as the first quarter of 2011 through at least as late as the fourth quarter of 2013, according to the one-count felony charge was filed Monday in the US District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco.

“Today’s charge is the third to be filed -- and the first to be filed against a corporate defendant -- in the Antitrust Division’s ongoing investigation into price fixing among some of the largest suppliers of packaged seafood,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Andrew Finch of the DOJ Antitrust Division.

“Companies small and large hold a great deal of the American peoples’ trust and this type of unfair, greedy behavior will not be tolerated," said Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett of the FBI’s San Francisco Division.

In its allegations, the DOJ wrote "various business organizations and individuals ... participated as co-conspirators."

Two Bumble Bee executives have been charged with price-fixing violations by the DOJ so far.

In December, Bumble Bee's current senior VP Kenneth Worsham was charged with a one-count felony charge for his role in the price-fixing conspiracy.

In early December, Bumble Bee Foods Senior Vice President Walter Scott Cameron agreed to plead guilty as well.

Like Cameron, Worsham agreed to pay a criminal fine and cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

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