Second Mistrial In Poultry Price-Fixing Case


The U.S. Justice Department has tried and failed twice in its efforts to prove price-fixing among chicken industry executives.

A federal judge in Denver has declared a second mistrial after a jury deadlocked over whether 10 chicken company executives had conspired to fix prices. The first trial ended in December 2021.

U.S. District Judge Philip Brimmer ended the case on March 29 after jurors said they were unable to reach a verdict after four days of deliberations. The 10 executives had worked for Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., Perdue Farms LLC, Claxton Poultry, Tyson Foods Inc., Koch Foods Inc., Case Farms and George’s Inc.

The DOJ alleged the executives engaged “…in a continuing combination and conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition by rigging bids and fixing prices and other price-related terms for broiler chicken products sold in the United States.”

Should the government seek a third trial as they have indicated, Judge Brimmer is demanding an explanation from the head of the DOJ’s Antitrust Division, Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter.

“I am going to order that the head of the antitrust division come in here within the next week and look me in the eye and explain to me why the government is going to retry this case,” Brimmer said Tuesday according to a Bloomberg report.

“If the government thinks that the 10 defendants and their attorneys and my staff and another group of jurors should spend six weeks retrying this case after the government has failed in two attempts to convict even one defendant, then certainly Mr. Kanter has the time to come to Denver and explain to me why the Department of Justice thinks that that is an appropriate thing to do,” Brimmer said.

The DOJ had alleged an eight-year conspiracy to fix prices, but the two mistrials suggest the difficulty in government efforts to police competition in food markets. The men had faced up to 10 years in prison and $1 million fines if convicted.

Jurors in both trials heard from Robert Bryant, a longtime Pilgrim’s Pride employee who’s currently on leave. As the government’s star witness, Bryant testified an industry-wide agreement existed to share price and bid information to inflate profits or limit losses, depending on the market.

Undermining Bryant’s testimony was the fact he appeared under grant of immunity from prosecution as he admitted that he had lied to the FBI “multiple times” on matters unrelated to the price-fixing probe.

Another prosecution witness was Tyson sales manager Carl Pepper, who told jurors about coordinating prices among the competitors.

Lawyers for the defendants argued that both men had lied to avoid prison. The defense argued that it’s not illegal simply to share pricing information and that the government can’t prove that the defendants all agreed to participate in a single, overarching conspiracy.

Related stories:

Judge Declares Mistrial In Chicken Antitrust Case


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