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Federal prosecutors net Bumble Bee CEO amid probe of price-fixing in the tuna business

Federal prosecutors net Bumble Bee CEO amid probe of price-fixing in the tuna business
Bumble Bee Foods Chief Executive Christopher Lischewski testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington in February 2008. (Lauren Victoria Burke / Associated Press)

U.S. prosecutors filed a criminal charge Wednesday against the CEO of Bumble Bee Foods as part of an ongoing investigation into price-fixing in the packaged seafood industry.

A grand jury in San Francisco indicted Christopher Lischewski on one count of price-fixing, alleging that from November 2010 to December 2013 he conspired with others in the industry to eliminate competition by setting prices for canned tuna.

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Three other people, including a former StarKist tuna company executive, were charged previously. Stephen Hodge, a former senior vice president for sales at StarKist, pleaded guilty last year to price-fixing.

"American consumers deserve free enterprise, not fixed prices, so the department will not tolerate crimes like the one charged in today's indictment," Assistant Atty. Gen. Makan Delrahim said in a statement announcing Lischewski's indictment.

Lischewski's attorney, John Keker, said his client has lived a hardworking and ethical life and is innocent.

"When the facts are known and the truth emerges, Mr. Lischewski will be found not guilty, and that vindication will rightfully restore his good name," Keker said in a statement.

The U.S. government began investigating price-fixing of canned tuna among StarKist, Bumble Bee Foods and Chicken of the Sea more than two years ago.

Two other executives at Bumble Bee have pleaded guilty in the price-fixing scheme, and Bumble Bee Foods last year agreed to pay a $25-million fine after pleading guilty to price-fixing.

Bumble Bee general counsel Jill Irvin has said the company hired a chief compliance officer last fall and recently reformed its guidelines and policies.

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