Lawsuit alleges ‘Big 3’ tuna brands conspired to fix prices

Bumble Bee, one of the "Big 3" tuna brands being sued for alleged price-fixing, agreed to pay a $25 million fine earlier this month. Photo courtesy of Bumble Bee

May 17 (UPI) — Executives of the three major tuna brands in the United States conspired to fix prices, according to criminal and civil court records updated this week.

Chicken of the Sea, Bumble Bee and StarKist colluded to keep prices high for for one of America’s favorite sandwich ingredients, according to an amended class-action lawsuit.

The “Big 3” supply about 80 percent of the $1.7 billion worth of canned tuna sold annually in the U.S., according to the court records.

A typical can of tuna costs about $1.50, which may be the result of price-fixing by Thai, South Korean and U.S. seafood dealers, the Justice Department said. Walmart and other major retailers are suing.

Those cases were updated this week with an appendix listing 56 major industry players who allegedly took part.

The litigation describes regular telephone calls and meetings where “executives agreed that all three companies” would collectively “raise prices.”

The government began investigating price-fixing among the three companies more than two years ago.

Earlier this month, Bumble Bee Foods pled guilty to conspiring to fix the cost of canned and pouch tuna. The company agreed to pay a $25 million criminal fine, which will increase to a maximum criminal fine of $81.5 million if the company is sold.


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