Bumble Bee appears to reach settlement with Sysco in price-fixing lawsuit

Published on
February 15, 2019

Bumble Bee Foods, which pleaded guilty in 2017 to fixing the prices of canned tuna sold in the United States with competitors StarKist and Chicken of the Sea, has reached an out-of-court settlement with food distributor Sysco.

On 14 February, lawyers for the San Diego, California, U.S.A.-based tuna-focused company and the Houston, Texas-based broadliner jointly filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. 

“Plaintiff Sysco Corporation and Defendant Bumble Bee Foods, LLC have agreed to resolve Plaintiff’s claims against Defendant,” the document, filed in the United States Southern California District Court, stated. “The parties stipulate and jointly move the Court to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims against Defendant with prejudice. The parties shall bear their respective fees and costs. The parties also respectfully request that any documents filed under seal remain under seal.”

Any settlement that may have been filed remains unavailable for public viewing, and SeafoodSource’s message to representatives of Bumble Bee asking for comment went unanswered on Friday, 15 February.

America’s largest food distributors, Sysco, and US Foods, sued Chicken of the Sea, Starkist, and Bumble Bee and their parent companies in January 2018. The companies, which filed separate suits, alleged the tuna manufacturers recognized that their products were used interchangeably by U.S. consumers, so no one company could raise prices above its peers without the risk of customers abandoning its product. 

“The solution they embraced in 2004 was to enter into an unlawful agreement to increase prices of shelf-stable tuna sold to plaintiff and others in the United States by, among other conduct, coordinating price increase announcements or pricing terms, secretly and collusively exchanging pricing information and prospective pricing announcements and business plans, and collectively reducing quantity and restraining output,” the US Foods complaint said.

In the most recent settlement involving civil complaints around the price-fixing conspiracy, StarKist announced in January it would pay Walmart USD 20.5 million (EUR 17.9 million) to resolve all antritrust claims brought by the retailer.

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