Poultry price-fixing case ends in mistrial

Poultry price-fixing case ends in mistrial

DENVER – The antitrust case against 10 former poultry industry executives ended in a mistrial after jurors failed to reach a verdict after four days of deliberations. Lawyers for the US Department of Justice (DOJ) decided to retry the defendants, and a jury trial was set for Feb. 22, 2022.

In a note to US District Judge Philip Brimmer, jurors said “…we cannot reach consensus on the defendants. Furthermore, we cannot reach consensus on whether there was an overarching conspiracy. After multiple votes, we cannot reach unanimity on a single defendant.”

Defendants in the trial include Jayson Penn, former chief executive officer of Pilgrim’s Pride Corp.; Bill Lovette, former president and CEO of Pilgrim’s, who was succeeded by Mr. Penn; Roger Austin, Pilgrim’s; Mikell Fries, and Scott Brady, both employed at Claxton Poultry; Timothy R. Mulrenin, of Perdue Farms and a former sales executive at Tyson Foods Inc.; William Kantola, Koch Foods Inc.; Jimmie Lee Little, former sales director at Pilgrim’s; Gary Roberts, vice president of sales and marketing at Case Farms; and Rickie Blake, a director and manager at George’s Inc.

A Colorado grand jury indicted the executives in 2020 and the trial began in October. The DOJ accused the men of engaging “…in a continuing combination and conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition by rigging bids and fixing prices and other price-related terms for broiler chicken products sold in the United States.”

The DOJ said the conspiracy consisted of a continuing agreement to “…rig bids and to fix, maintain, stabilize, and raise prices and other price-related terms for broiler chicken products sold in the United States.”

The offense carries a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine.