StarKist Pleads Out in Price Fixing Case

By George Khoury, Esq. on October 22, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Big tuna is a big deal.

It's an $11 billion global market. And in the U.S., 80 percent of the tuna market share is dominated by three companies: StarKist, Bumble Bee, and Chicken of the Sea.

Although the companies maintain that there is nothing fishy to see there, StarKist just pleaded guilty to price-fixing with their competitors, who have also had to come clean over the same. Unfortunately for StarKist, the company may be in for the worst wrist slapping out of the three, and maybe a real apology for Charlie this time.

Canning Controversy

If you're a fan of canned tuna, you probably noticed that prices have risen over the last several years. This is due in part to the rising popularity of sushi worldwide increasing the demand for premium tuna, but also due to the rising popularity of canned tuna in markets across the world, such as several in Central and South American, that haven't traditionally been major consumers of tuna.

However, while the demand for tuna stagnated in the U.S. market, the big tuna companies came up with a way to increase their domestic revenues: price fixing. Unfortunately, when Chicken of the Sea's attempt to buy Bumble Bee failed, Chicken of the Sea notified investigators in exchange for leniency.

Bumble Bee ended up pleading guilty and receiving a $25 million fine, payable over 5 years, interest-free. Although prosecutors sought over $100 million, it was noted that the company would have gone out of business. StarKist isn't expected to get such a sweetheart deal, and like the other companies, is also facing lawsuits from retailers and other groups related to the price fixing scheme.

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