Chris Lischewski trial enters second week as key witnesses testify

Published on
November 19, 2019

The trial of Chris Lischewski is now in its second week, with a panel of 16 jurors having heard six days of testimony from many of the witnesses deemed most important to the government’s price-fixing case against the former Bumble Bee president and CEO.

Lischewski is on trial for a single charge of engaging in a conspiracy to fix the prices of canned tuna in the United States from 2011 to 2013. The case is being heard by District Court Judge Edward M. Chen of the Northern District of California.

The first day of the trial, on 4 November, featured testimony from Jeffrey Chang, a partner of Bumble Bee owner Lion Capital, as well as an appearance by Walter Scott Cameron, the former senior vice president of sales for Bumble Bee. In 2017, Cameron pleaded guilty to a charge related to price-fixing, but agreed to assist the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation into the matter in exchange for a suspension of his prison sentence.

Cameron’s testimony continued through the trial’s second day and into its third, which concluded with FBI Operations Specialist Anna Frenzilli, who discussed records of phone calls between Lischewski and various alleged co-conspirators, as well as with former Chicken of the Sea CEO Shue Wing Chan.

On 12 November, the fourth day of the trial, Safeway Assistant Sales Manager Michael Baribeau testified regarding price increases noticed by his company regarding rising prices of canned tuna. Baribeau was followed by Renato Curto, the former president and CEO of Bumble Bee tuna supplier Tri Marine, who in turn preceded Stephen Hodge, a former senior vice president of sales at StarKist. Like Cameron, Hodge was indicted on a price-fixing charge but agreed to help the government in its investigation in exchange for a reduced sentence.

Hodge’s testimony, which stretched into the fifth and sixth days of the trial, covered a number of emails sent between Hodge and his counterparts at Bumble Bee regarding pricing of canned tuna. Following up Hodge’s appearance, the government called Kenneth Robert Worsham to continue its examination of emails concerning pricing decisions, made both internally at Bumble Bee and between Bumble Bee and its competitors. Worsham, a former senior vice president of trade marketing at Bumble Bee, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy in charges related to price-fixing, but avoided jail time in exchange for agreeing to cooperate with the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation.

Worsham continued to testify through the trial’s seventh day, on Monday, 18 November, and was set to testify again on 19 November.

A number of proposed witnesses put forth before the trial by the prosecution have yet to testify, Lischewski’s defense team will then get to call its witnesses, who include both former colleagues at Bumble Bee as well as other industry representatives and character witnesses.

Chen, the judge presiding over the case, has said the trial may take up to three weeks to complete.

Photo courtesy of Ken Lund/Wikipedia

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