- Walter Scott Cameron, Bumble Bee Foods' senior VP of sales, will plead guilty to a one-count felony charge for his role in a price-fixing conspiracy for packaged seafood products such as canned tuna, the U.S. Department of Justice announced earlier this week, according to Food Business News.
- The DOJ claims that Cameron and his co-conspirators, which include other major canned tuna and packaged seafood suppliers, negotiated prices and issued announcements based on their talks.
- Cameron has agreed to pay a fine and cooperate with the DOJ's ongoing investigation, the agency said.
Price fixing in the food industry isn't a particularly new development, but these claims seem to have become more frequent in recent years. At the center of another current price manipulation controversy is the Georgia Dock poultry price index, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture no longer includes in its own reporting.
Earlier this month, the Georgia Department of Agriculture did not publish its weekly Georgia Dock index for the first time in 16 years. It's unclear what the agency will replace the industry self-reported index with, but a third-party-determined index could come into play.
Back in the center store, packaged seafood producers are under the same scrutiny for accusations of coercion and price manipulation — which major poultry providers also face via a pending lawsuit from another supplier. Several retailers, from Wal-Mart to Publix, have also joined an antitrust suit that claims major packaged seafood companies colluded to manipulate prices for financial gain.
Retailers took notice of the scheme after Thai Union Group, owner of Tri-Union Seafoods and the Chicken of the Sea brand, suspended a share offering to finance its planned Bumble Bee acquisition in July 2015. The DOJ had subpoenaed the company, prompting lawsuits and claims of price fixing.