Pilgrim's Pride CEO and Three Others Indicted for Chicken Price-Fixing

June 3, 2020
CEO Jayson Penn and former vice president Roger Austin charged along with two top officers from Claxton Poultry Farms.

Pilgrim's Pride’s CEO and a former executive and the two top officers from Claxton Poultry Farms were indicted for allegedly conspiring to fix prices and rig bids on broiler chickens from 2012 to 2017.

The Pilgrim’s Pride executives are CEO Jayson Penn and former vice president Roger Austin. Also charged were Mikell Fries and Scott Brady, president and vice president respectively of the Claxton, Ga., grower.

Each executive faces one count of price-fixing, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

The indictments were returned June 3 by a federal grand jury in U.S. District Court in Denver, near Pilgrim’s Pride’s titular Greeley, Colo., headquarters. Pilgrim’s Pride is 75% owned by and controlled by JBS USA of Greeley, U.S. subsidiary of a Brazilian meat processor of the same name.

Various media reports called it part of an ongoing Justice Dept. investigation of anti-competitive behavior in the chicken industry.

An International Business Times report said subpoenas also were issued to Tyson Foods and Sanderson Farms.

As we reported last June, the Justice Dept. intervened in a civil suit filed in 2016 by chicken buyer Maplevale Farms alleging price-fixing. Restaurant companies, including Sysco and US Foods Holding, and other poultry buyers such as Walmart and Kroger Co., joined the effort.

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