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Bumble Bee SVP to Plead Guilty to Tuna Price-fixing

Walter Scott Cameron, SVP of sales for San Diego-based Bumble Bee Foods, has agreed to plead guilty for his role in a conspiracy to fix the prices of packaged seafood such as canned tuna sold in the United States, according to the Department of Justice.

The one-count felony charge filed Dec. 7 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco noted that Cameron and his co-conspirators agreed to fix the prices of packaged seafood from as early as 2011 until about 2013. Along with his guilty plea, which is subject to court approval, Cameron agreed to pay a criminal fine and cooperate with the continuing investigation by the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. The charge against Cameron is the first to result from the federal probe into the packaged seafood industry. 

All consumers deserve competitive prices for these important kitchen staples, and companies and executives who cheat those consumers will be held criminally accountable,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Renata Hesse, of the Antitrust Division.

These charges demonstrate our continued commitment to investigate and pursue those individuals and companies seeking to victimize consumers through illegal business practices that threaten our community’s ability to pay fair prices for food for their families,” added Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett, of the FBI’s San Francisco Division>

Additionally, retailers including Walmart, Wegmans Food Markets, The Kroger Co., Albertsons Cos., Hy-Vee Inc., Publix Super Markets and Meijer Inc. have filed suit against Bumble Bee, Tri-Union Seafoods (dba Chicken of the Sea) and StarKist, alleging price-fixing.

“This conspiracy to fix prices is yet another example of a broken seafood industry putting profits before people and our oceans,” said David Pinsky, oceans campaigner for Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Greenpeace. “The admission of guilt will raise even more concerns about the allegations in civil lawsuits that Bumble Bee, StarKist, and Chicken of the Sea -- the three largest U.S. tuna brands -- colluded to block sustainable tuna options from being made available to U.S. consumers.”

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