StarKist Tuna agreed last fall to plead guilty to criminal antitrust charges in a tuna price-fixing scheme. The case, which is proceeding in the Northern District of California, is moving in to the sentencing phase. According to StarKist’s attorneys, however, the potential fines could bankrupt the company.
StarKist admitted in court filings to selling $600M in tuna under a collusive pricing scheme. The company participated in the price-fixing arrangement between 2011 and 2013. Other major tuna producers have also entered guilty pleas in the case. Individually, executives from StarKist and Bumble Bee also face criminal charges.
Based on the company’s sales volume at that time, the prescribed monetary penalty is between $50M and $100M. The company’s attorneys say that if the judge applies the minimum fine, the company can continue operations. If the judge imposes the maximum fine, however, the company will cease operations. This is true, they argue, because the company expects to lose lawsuits from aggrieved commercial customers. The combined restitution and criminal fines could leave the company with no operating funds.
Bumble Bee, another defendant in the case, also pleaded with a federal judge to lower the possible fine during sentencing. The company argued that a high fine would leave the company insolvent. The judge agreed to the relief, provided that the company gave additional information about the operation of the scheme. In the StarKist case, the judge is not likely to be swayed by that argument, since StarKist pleaded guilty last. DOJ attorneys say they have evidence to prove that the company can pay the higher fine without bankrupting itself.
US District Court Judge Edward Chen will rule on the matter in June.
Federal criminal antitrust attorney
When you face charges of criminal antitrust, hire an experienced antitrust attorney like Robert Helfend. Mr. Helfend has more than 30 years of experience in criminal defense. He takes criminal antitrust cases in any federal circuit in the United States.
Antitrust convictions can effectively end your professional career. That’s why you need an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side. Mr. Helfend will fight aggressively to get the charges against you reduced or dropped. When that’s not a possibility, he will work toward the best possible outcome for you.
Don’t assume that a guilty plea is your only option. Contact Robert Helfend or call toll-free at (800) 834-6434, (805) 273-5611, (310) 456-3317 or (818) 591-2809 for an immediate consultation on your Ventura County antitrust case.
Photo Credit: Kai Schreiber, via Flickr.com