Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Tuesday filed a civil lawsuit against Dongwon-owned tuna giant Starkist and Chris Lischewski, the former CEO of Bumble Bee Foods, stating both participated in a price-fixing conspiracy that cost state residents at least $6 million (€5.39 million).
Ferguson’s charges, filed in Washington state's King County superior Court, assert Starkist and former Bumble Bee Foods CEO Christopher Lischewski engaged in a price-fixing conspiracy from 2004 through 2015 to drive up the cost of packaged tuna, violating Washington’s Consumer Protection Act.
“We cannot have a free market when corporate titans are able to tip the scales to their own bank accounts,” Ferguson said. “Washingtonians lost millions as a result of this corporate greed. I intend to get that back for them.”
The lawsuit asks the court to order the defendants pay restitution to Washington consumers as well as the costs and fees of bringing the case.
The lawsuit evolved from the US Department of Justice's (DOJ) investigation into price-fixing that took place between 2004 and 2015 by Bumble Bee's Lischewski in coordination with Starkist and Thai Union's Chicken of the Sea International (COSI).
Last year a jury in the US District Court in San Francisco took just 30 minutes to find Lischewski guilty of participating in the conspiracy to fix prices of canned tuna.
Starkist has also plead guilty to being involved in the price-fixing scheme. Last year, it was ordered to pay a $100 million (€89.87 million) fine to the DOJ.
Washington's Attorney General is the first in the United States to bring a civil suit against the conspirators, although it is unclear from the details of the lawsuit why COSI is not included. In November of 2019, COSI said its whistleblower status in the DOJ case protected the company from a criminal conviction.