In separate orders last week, a U.S. District Judge in San Diego gave preliminary approval to three deals totaling $39.5 million that would settle claims that Chicken of the Sea colluded with other seafood companies to fix the price of canned tuna.
While it also would end years of antitrust litigation against Chicken of the Sea, there may be civil cases remaining against Bumble Bee and StarKist, who also were prosecuted by the Dept. of Justice for fixing tuna prices 2011-2013.
The largest deal was a $20 million settlement between a class of end payors and Chicken of the Sea and its parent company, Thai Union Group, according to Law360. The other two were a $13 million settlement with direct purchasers, who are mainly smaller companies, and a $6.5 million deal with commercial food preparers.
The litigation followed a Dept. of Justice investigation into the industry, which led to guilty pleas and criminal fines amounting to $25 million against Bumble Bee and up to $100 million for StarKist, according to the legal news service. Chicken of the Sea cooperated with the government and was neither fined nor charged.
There were more than 70 suits consolidated in multidistrict litigation before the accused companies started cutting deals at the beginning of 2019. Chicken of the Sea reached deals with Target, Sysco Corp. and U.S. Foods. in 2019.
With Bumble Bee having filed for bankruptcy, the main party left in the is StarKist, which was recently found civilly liable in November, according to Law360.
Christopher Lischewski, former CEO of Bumble Bee Foods, was sentenced in 2020 to more than three years in federal prison for his role.