Attorney: Bumble Bee’s Chris Lischewski “will be found not guilty”

The attorney representing Bumble Bee CEO Christopher Lischewski, who was indicted on Wednesday, 16 May on federal price-fixing charges, said his client is innocent.

Attorney John Keker of San Francisco, California, U.S.A.-based Keker, Van Nest, and Peters, issued a staunch defense of his client.

“Chris Lischewski is a decent and honorable man, who has lived a hardworking and ethical life,” Keker told the Times of San Diego. “He has been a leader and beacon within the seafood industry for more than twenty-five years. And most significantly on this dark day, he is innocent of any wrongdoing.”

Lischewski is the fourth individual to be charged in the federal price-fixing probe that has already seen three executives plead guilty, including two others from Bumble Bee. In addition, the company itself also pleaded guilty in May 2017 to fixing the price of canned tuna between 2011 and 2013.

“When the facts are known and the truth emerges, Mr. Lischewski will be found not guilty, and that vindication will rightfully restore his good name,” Keker said in a statement to Reuters.

Jill Irvin, Bumble Bee’s general counsel, did not respond to a question from SeafoodSource as to whether Lischewski would remain with the company but said in a statement to Reuters that the company would work to maintain stability in its leadership. 

“Our Board of Directors will act swiftly to ensure continuity in the company’s leadership,” Irvin told Reuters. “Bumble Bee has a strong senior management team in place and will continue to operate our business in usual fashion with an eye towards growth.”

Irvin said in response to its own guilty plea, the company hired a chief compliance officer and reformed its guidelines and policies.

In a statement sent to SeafoodSource, National Fisheries Institute spokesperson Gavin Gibbons warned against pre-judging Lischewski’s guilt.

“NFI is confident authorities will look at all available information in this case and do a comprehensive job of considering the evidence,” Gibbons said. “We caution anyone reporting on this matter to avoid jumping to conclusions before the system is allowed to work. It is important to remember that an indictment is an allegation and not a finding of guilt or even involvement. In announcing this action, the Department of Justice itself noted that ‘all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.’”

Gibbons denied the NFI or any of its staff had any involvement or knowledge of any potentially illegal activity taking place at its sanctioned events, including NFI Tuna Council meetings, where alleged price fixing took place, according to federal filing documents.

“NFI has never been involved in any alleged efforts to fix prices on any seafood product, nor has it been criminally accused of such,” Gibbons said. “NFI has cooperated fully with the Department of Justice in its efforts to thoroughly investigate this case.”

Gibbons did not say whether the NFI planned to take any disciplinary action against the companies involved in the alleged price-fixing, including Bumble Bee. 

“This issue is an ongoing legal matter,” he said. “Just as we ask others not reach unfounded or premature conclusions, NFI would consider this matter and the companies involved upon its completion, and not before.”


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