Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation’s CEO will focus on a price fixing indictment against him, while the company’s CFO steps in as interim CEO, the company has said.
The move follows an announcement on June 3rd by the United States Department of Justice that CEO Jayson Penn is among four executives named in an indictment for conspiring to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chickens.
The other executives named in the indictment were Roger Austin, a former Pilgrim’s vice-president; Mikell Fries, Claxton Poultry’s president; and Scott Brady, a Claxton vice-president. Pilgrim CEO Jayson Penn is taking a paid leave of absence to focus on the defence.
Gilberto Tomazoni, chairman of Pilgrim’s Board of Directors, said today, “Pilgrim’s operates with the highest standards of integrity and is committed to free and open competition that benefits both customers and consumers.
“The board takes the recent allegations very seriously and believes it is in the best interests of both Jayson and the company that he is given the opportunity to focus on his legal defense during this time. Jayson has built a strong leadership team at Pilgrim’s. The board has complete confidence in the ability of [CFO] Fabio Sandri, as interim president and CEO.”
When the Department of Justice announced the indictment, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, said, “Particularly in times of global crisis, the division remains committed to prosecuting crimes intended to raise the prices Americans pay for food.
“Executives who cheat American consumers, restauranteurs, and grocers, and compromise the integrity of our food supply, will be held responsible for their actions.”
“Rigging bids and fixing prices hurts consumers and undermines our economic system”
According to the indictment, from at least as early as 2012 until at least early 2017, Jayson Penn, Roger Austin, Mikell Fries, and Scott Brady conspired to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chickens across the United States. Broiler chickens are chickens raised for human consumption and sold to grocers and restaurants.
Timothy R. Slater, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, said, “The FBI will not stand by as individuals attempt to line their pockets while hard-working Americans and restaurant owners are trying to put food on their tables.
“Today’s announcement shows the FBI’s commitment to investigating allegations of price fixing so that the perpetrators can be held accountable.”
Peggy E. Gustafson, Inspector General of the Department of Commerce, added, “Rigging bids and fixing prices hurts consumers and undermines our economic system.
“We are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to root out those who take advantage of the American public’s trust.”
Bethanne M. Dinkins of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said, “Ensuring the integrity of competition in agricultural markets in order for producers to receive competitive prices for their products, and to prevent consumers from being cheated, is of the utmost importance to USDA Office of Inspector General, and we will continue to dedicate resources to the investigation of matters involving such potential of competitive harms.”
Penn, Austin, Fries, and Brady are the first to be charged in an ongoing criminal investigation into price fixing and bid rigging involving broiler chickens.