US launches investigation into Mowi price-fixing allegations
Salmon farming giant Mowi has announced it is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice regarding allegations of price-fixing in Norway’s farmed Atlantic salmon market.
The move by the U.S. DOJ stems from an ongoing investigation by the European Commission into “concerns that the inspected companies may have violated E.U. antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices.” That investigation became public in February, when the E.C. carried out unannounced inspections at the premises of several Norwegian firms involved in the farmed Atlantic salmon sector in Europe.
The company “has been informed that we will receive a subpoena from the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice in the U.S.A. where they are opening a criminal investigation involving allegations of similar conduct,” the company said in a 14 November press release.
Mowi, which announced that it would receive a DOJ subpoena under the rules of the Norwegian Securities Trading Act, said there is no new information regarding the European Commission’s case.
“Mowi considers that there [is] no basis for the E.U. inspection and that the class-action complaints clearly lack merit and are entirely unsubstantiated. This equally applies to any criminal investigation in the U.S.,” it said. "Mowi will fully cooperate with the Department of Justice and will provide as requested all information in relation to our U.S. subsidiaries.”
The European Commission’s investigation was triggered by information it received that price coordination was ongoing amongst Norwegian salmon producers. Companies being investigated by the E.C. include Mowi, Grieg Seafood, SalMar, and Lerøy Seafood.
“The commission has received information, from different actors operating at different levels in the salmon market, alleging that some Norwegian producers of farmed Norwegian Atlantic salmon participate in or have participated [in] different ways of price coordination in order to sustain and possibly increase prices of farmed Norwegian Atlantic salmon,” the letter said.
The first in a wave of civil lawsuits filed in U.S. courts against the Norwegian producers came in April 2019, with additional suits filed throughout the summer. The suits all claim that major players in Norway’s farmed salmon industry exchanged competitively sensitive information among themselves, with the aim of artificially controlling the price of farm-raised salmon bought by U.S. seafood buyers, a violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.
However, it was not confirmed the U.S. government was looking into allegations of criminal conduct until Mowi’s announcement on Wednesday, 14 November.
The DOJ did not immediately respond to a request for more information made by SeafoodSource on Thursday.
Photo courtesy of Mowi