Canned tuna buyers reach settlement with StarKist, Bumble Bee owner on price-fixing claims

Cans of Bumble Bee tuna
Cans of Bumble Bee tuna | Photo courtesy of rblfmr/Shutterstock
4 Min

Two classes of plaintiffs and the owners of StarKist and Bumble Bee Seafood have reached a settlement in a civil lawsuit related to price-fixing allegations.

A proposed settlement between the end-payer and direct-purchaser plaintiffs and StarKist owner Dongwon Industries and Bumble Bee’s previous owner Lion Capital came to light in a 25 June filing in a class-action case being heard by U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael S. Berg of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

Terms of the proposed settlement were not disclosed. The plaintiffs had been seeking up to USD 1 billion (EUR 935 million) in damages. Berg has given both plaintiff classes until 25 July to make motions for preliminary approval of the settlement and has set a 1 August hearing on the deal, at which he could approve it or request more information.

The case stems from the price-fixing conspiracy that lasted from 2011 to 2015 involving StarKist, Bumble Bee, and Chicken of the Sea, which resulted in criminal charges and convictions in cases brought against StarKist and Bumble Bee by the U.S. Justice Department. Chicken of the Sea and its owner, Thai Union, were exempt from criminal charges after serving as the whistleblower in the case. Former Bumble Bee President and CEO Chris Lischewski was sentenced to 40 months in prison and given a USD 100,000 fine (EUR 88,000) after being found guilty by a jury for playing a leading role in the conspiracy.

Previously, Chicken of the Sea and Thai Union agreed to pay around USD 13 million (EUR 11.4 million) to the direct purchasers, plus an additional USD 5.95 million (EUR 5.21 million) for legal fees and USD 20 million (EUR 17.5 million) to the end-payer plaintiffs, including USD 5 million (EUR 4.4 million) to cover legal fees.

Two other classes of tuna buyers certified in the class-action lawsuit – the direct-action plaintiffs and the commercial food-preparers – have either reached settlements with the so called “Big Three” tuna companies involved in the suit or are pursuing separate litigation.

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