Bumble Bee Seafoods executive charged in price-fixing probe

An executive of Bumble Bee Seafoods was charged in federal court in San Francisco Wednesday with conspiring with other unnamed companies and individuals to fix prices of packaged seafood such as canned tuna.

Walter Scott Cameron, a senior vice president of sales, has agreed to plead guilty to the single felony count, the Justice Department said.

The department said Cameron agreed to pay a criminal fine and to cooperate with the government’s ongoing investigation of alleged price-fixing antitrust violations by the packaged seafood industry.

The charge against Cameron is the first to be filed in the probe, the agency said.

Bumble Bee, based in San Diego, describes itself as the nation’s largest packaged seafood company.

The company was not identified in the charges filed today, but Senior Vice President and General Counsel Jill Irvin confirmed that Cameron is an employee and said he is now on paid leave.

The charge, filed in a document known as an information, alleged that Cameron met with representatives of other seafood packaging firms, agreed to fix, raise and maintain the prices of their products, and then announced prices that were in accordance with the understandings reached.

Irvin said the company and Cameron are both cooperating with the investigation.

Irvin said in a statement:

“The company is hopeful that it can reach a resolution with DoJ on this matter, as it relates to the company, in early 2017.”

Renata Hesse, the chief of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, stated, “Today’s charge is the first to be filed in the Antitrust Division’s ongoing investigation into price fixing among some of the largest suppliers of canned tuna and other packaged seafood.

Hesse said:

“All consumers deserve competitive prices for these important kitchen staples, and companies and executives who cheat those consumers will be held criminally accountable.”