A senior sales executive opened up the federal criminal trial against former Bumble Bee CEO Chris Lischewski on Monday with tearful testimony that he was ordered to engage in a conspiracy to fix tuna prices with the company’s chief rivals, according to Law360.
Walter Scott Cameron, Bumble Bee's former senior vice president of sales, told jurors at a US District Court in San Francisco that Lischewski gave he and former senior vice president of trade marketing Kenneth Worsham a “very clear, direct order” to “wave the white flag” and end the price war with Dongwon-owned Starkist, Law360 reported.
Cameron claimed the Lischewski was involved with the conspiracy from the beginning, and was closely involved during the process, the site reported.
The Department of Justice's (DOJ) Antitrust Division alleges Lischewski was the mastermind behind a vast conspiracy to fix prices that included the “Big Three” US tuna producers of Starkist and Chicken of the Sea.
In its opening statement, DOJ attorneys said the price-fixing scheme "tears at the very fabric of our free market system."
The DOJ has won guilty pleas from several executives and all three of the major companies for taking part in the conspiracy, ordering millions of dollars in fines.
Lischewski’s attorneys opened the trial by telling jurors tuna prices over the alleged period of price-fixing "reflect stiff competition," and that Lischewski was not involved even if a conspiracy did exist.
If convicted, Lischewski could face a 10-year prison term and a maximum fine of $10 million (€9 million).