Pilgrim’s Pride CEO Pleads Not Guilty in Poultry Price-Fixing Case

Gene Naumovsky

A network of executives fixing chicken prices is under investigation as four are indicted.

CEO of Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., the U.S.’s second-largest chicken processor, Jayson Penn has pleaded not guilty to federal charges regarding fixed chicken prices, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Justice Department indicted Penn and three other U.S. poultry industry executives on Wednesday.

At Thursday’s hearing, one of Mr. Penn’s lawyers, Michael Tubach said, “He plans to fight these charges and expects to be fully vindicated.”

The Justice Department claims that four executives from Pilgrim’s and Claxton Poultry Farms utilized phone calls and text messages to fix prices based on the competition. The case points to a larger network responsible for the sharing of pricing information. Pilgrim’s announced in a statement, “The company is committed to high ethical standards, governance, and free and open competition that benefits both customers and consumers.”

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kristen Mix announced needed conditions from Penn during the Thursday hearing, including that the CEO is free to travel, but cannot reach out to any employees of Pilgrim’s’ 8 customer companies, which remained unnamed. In opposition, Tubach stated that the CEO needs such contact to successfully run his company. Judge Mix said, “I suggest that Mr. Penn, as a successful CEO, knows very well how to delegate.”

Pilgrim’s shares fell 12 percent on Wednesday after the indictment, but grew 1.3 percent on Thursday. Former Pilgrim’s vice president, Roger Austin, and a Claxton vice president, Scott Brady, were also indicted and plead not guilty.

Read the full story here.

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