Chicken of the Sea issues statement on its financial health

Chicken of the Sea, one of the so-called “Big Three” U.S. canned tuna companies, has asserted its financial health in a corporate statement released 25 November.

Chicken of the Sea’s primary rivals, Bumble Bee Foods and StarKist, have run into financial difficulty following their guilty pleas in criminal cases brought against them involving a joint price-fixing scheme, which also involved Chicken of the Sea. Bumble Bee Foods pleaded guilty and received a reduced, USD 25 million (EUR 22.6 million) fine for its transgression, and has paid millions more to settle civil litigation resulting from the price-fixing investigation. Partially as a result, Bumble Bee filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Friday, 22 November.

StarKist has also struggled in the aftermath of the price-fixing case. In September, StarKist was ordered to pay a criminal fine of USD 100 million (EUR 90.3 million), the full amount requested by the U.S. Department of Justice. During its futile attempt to convince the judge in the case to lower its fine, StarKist attorney Niall Lynch said it was a “life or death” decision and that the punishment would jeopardize “its ability to continue as an ongoing concern.” StarKist has also had to pay tens of millions of dollars in civil settlements stemming from the price-fixing case.

As the whistleblower in the case, Chicken of the Sea was not subject to criminal fines in the case, though it has also paid millions in civil settlements.

“Chicken of the Sea International (COSI) is pleased to have fully cooperated and resolved the industry investigation by the Department of Justice; and as the whistleblower, will not be prosecuted and will not have to pay a fine,” the company said in its recent statement. “Additionally, COSI has made significant progress in the civil case settlement process, having reached fair and responsible agreements with 90 percent of all plaintiffs, on reasonable terms. The company is engaged with the remaining plaintiffs and believes, fair and equitable solutions can be found in line with the settlements already reached with the broad majority of U.S. retailers, foodservice companies and especially the U.S. consumers and consumer representatives.”

El Segundo, California-based Chicken of the Sea said it released its statement in response to Bumble Bee’s bankruptcy filing.

“As a result, there have been questions surrounding the financial stability of the other leaders in the North American shelf-stable seafood industry,” it said.

The company has changed its practices following the exposure of the price-fixing conspiracy, it added.

“Together with Thai Union, COSI has made dramatic changes to the way it does business and how it shapes the industry; through its comprehensive compliance and training program, revised ethics code of conduct, and the global award-winning SeaChange sustainability strategy, to bring lasting and sustainable change to the seafood industry for the betterment of our customers, employees, and the environment and natural resources with upon which all rely,” it said.

Furthermore, Thai Union continues to be profitable and to invest in innovation and expansions, the statement concluded.

“COSI is continuing to dedicate its efforts to serving its customers and working with its suppliers to strengthen and grow the category. As a perennial leader in the shelf-stable seafood category, COSI and Thai Union are committed to growing the category through the development of new innovative products, such as Infusions and Wild Catch, along with its core branded line of tuna, salmon, and specialty products,” it said. “Thai Union continues to demonstrate growth through diversification, as noted in [its] latest quarterly filing … and as a global seafood leader, offering the highest quality ambient, frozen, and chilled seafood products as well as a broad range of pet care products.”

Photo courtesy of David Tonelson/Shutterstock


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