Pilgrims Pride CEO charged by U.S. in price-fixing conspiracy

by Katherine Isabelle

Pilgrim’s Pride Corp.’s chief executive officer was charged with conspiring to fix prices by U.S. prosecutors as part of an antitrust investigation of chicken-processing companies.

Jayson Penn was indicted by a grand jury in Colorado along with Roger Austin, a former vice president of the company, the Justice Department said Wednesday.

“Executives who cheat American consumers, restauranteurs, and grocers, and compromise the integrity of our food supply, will be held responsible for their actions,” Makan Delrahim, the head of the department’s antitrust division, said in a statement.

The case is part of an ongoing investigation into allegations of price fixing by chicken processors that came to light last year. Pilgrim’s, along with rivals Tyson Foods Inc. and Sanderson Farms Inc., have been accused in civil lawsuits of conspiring to raise prices for broiler chickens.

Pilgrim’s Pride shares fell as much as 16% on the news. Tyson fell as much as 7.6% and Sanderson Farms fell as much as 14%.

Also charged Wednesday were Mikell Fries, the president of Claxton Poultry Farms, and Scott Brady, a vice president.

Pilgrim’s Pride didn’t respond to a request for comment and Claxton declined to comment.

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