Bumble Bee blunder bodes well for antitrust price-fixing lawsuits

One lawyer says Bumble Bee's guilty plea isn't 'unexpected' and another says it makes for an 'outstandingly strong case now.'

Although the recent US Department of Justice (DOJ) announcement means a rocky road ahead for Bumble Bee Foods LLC, it's good news for the packaged seafood price fixing lawsuits filed initially in 2015. 

Bumble Bee agreed to plead guilty for its role in a conspiracy to fix the prices of US-sold shelf-stable tuna fish, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ) in a press release Monday. The DOJ declined to comment to IntraFish as the investigation is still ongoing.

"The DOJ press release really speaks for itself ... this is an outstandingly strong case now," said Fred Isquith of Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLP. His firm represents seven residents who filed a class-action lawsuit.

"I think it acknowledges how strong the case is against the industry," he told IntraFish. "We think this statement by the DOJ shows they are going to hold the company itself accountable, in addition to the individuals who pleaded guilty."

Former Bumble Bee Foods Senior VP Kenneth Worsham and Senior Vice President Walter Scott Cameron filed guilty plea agreements with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) for their roles in the packaged seafood price fixing deal.

Another attorney said he was not surprised by this outcome. 

"This wasn't entirely unexpected," said Michael Lehmann with Hausfeld LLP, who represents New York-based Olean Wholesale Grocery Cooperative, the first plaintiff that led to a domino effect of dozens other plaintiffs coming out of the woodwork.

"The general counsel of Bumble Bee said they were in duscussion with the DOJ," he told IntraFish. "Although it took longer than expected."

He added the DOJ's statements are consistent with the complaint his plaintiffs filed.

Coincidentally, the deadline set for the second amended complaint in these class-action price fixing lawsuits is also Monday.

Both lawyers told IntraFish the amended complaints will be partially sealed for the public as certain confidential details need to be redacted.

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