StarKist admits fixing tuna prices, faces $100 million fine

SAN FRANCISCO — StarKist Co. agreed to plead guilty to a felony price fixing charge as part of a broad collusion investigation of the canned tuna industry, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday.

The DOJ said StarKist faces up to a $100 million fine when it is sentenced. Prosecutors allege that the industry’s top three companies conspired between 2010 and 2013 to keep prices artificially high.

“We have cooperated with the DOJ during the course of its investigation and accept responsibility,” said StarKist chief executive Andrew Choe. “We will continue to conduct our business with the utmost transparency and integrity.”

The scheme came to light when Thai Union Group’s Chicken of the Sea attempt to buy San Diego-based Bumble Bee failed in 2015, according to court records. Chicken of the Sea executives then alerted federal investigators, who agreed to shield the company from criminal prosecution in exchange for cooperation.

Bumble Bee Foods last year pleaded guilty to the same charge and paid a $25 million fine, $111 million lower than prosecutors said it should have been. Prosecutors said they feared putting the financially struggling Bumble Bee out of business with a high fine and agreed to let the company make interest-free payments for five years.

Two former executives of Bumble Bee and one from StarKist have also each pleaded guilty to price-fixing charges. None of them have been sentenced.

Former Bumble Bee chief executive Christopher Lischewski has pleaded not guilty to a price fixing charge.

“The conspiracy to fix prices on these household staples had direct effects on the pocketbooks of American consumers,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim.

In addition, the three companies face myriad lawsuits from wholesalers, food service companies and retailers such as Walmart, Target and Kroger.

…read more

Source:: Deseret News – Business News

      

Tariffs having major impact on Utah small business

OREM — International trade is growing concern for many Utah small businesses as the impact of sanctions imposed by the Trump administration impact the bottom line of companies in the Beehive State and across the nation.

Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, focused on the problem during an International Trade Conference Thursday in the Sorenson Student Center at Utah Valley University, which included a panel discussion on tariffs. Curtis said trade and tariff policies in Washington are currently affecting businesses in Utah, but the ultimate goal is to help firms and producers nationwide prosper in the long term.

“It’s very clear that this is a big deal and that it’s hitting them in substantial ways, especially small businesses,” he said. “One of our responsibilities is to talk about what is happening to them, understand what is happening to them and move through this (process) as quickly as possible to get them to the other (positive) side of this.”

In June, the Trump administration imposed a 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent tariffs on aluminum from Canada, Mexico and the European Union. The move was preceded in January by tariffs on foreign-made solar panels and washing machines. In September, the president levied more than $200 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods, one of the country’s top international trading partners, which retaliated with sanctions of its own.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, $568 million in Utah exports to China are being threatened by retaliatory tariffs, explained Miles Hansen, president and CEO of World Trade Center Utah.

“An analysis by WTC Utah shows that the state industries primarily affected by Chinese retaliatory tariffs include aluminum recycling, ranchers and beef processing, plastics manufacturing and agriculture,” he said.

Since the tariffs were imposed, the major impact has been felt by small- and medium-sized businesses across the country, threatening the survival of many, Curtis said.

“If they can survive, there is good news and hope on the other end,” he said. “But the biggest question is can we get them through this period?”

“We have to,” he added. “We don’t have a choice.”

Curtis said getting the tariff strategy to work in the United States’ favor will require strengthening relationships with other trading partner countries to provide the manufacturing services so heavily relied upon through China right now and to work hard at getting new trade agreements in place, such as the revised North American trade deal that was renamed the United States-Mexico-Canada …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Business News

      

Tariffs having major impact on Utah small business, congressman says

OREM — International trade is growing concern for many Utah small businesses as the impact of sanctions imposed by the Trump administration impact the bottom line of companies in the Beehive State and across the nation.

Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, focused on the problem during an International Trade Conference Thursday in the Sorensen Student Center at Utah Valley University, which included a panel discussion on tariffs. Curtis said trade and tariff policies in Washington are currently affecting businesses in Utah, but the ultimate goal is to help firms and producers nationwide prosper in the long term.

“It’s very clear that this is a big deal and that it’s hitting them in substantial ways, especially small businesses,” he said. “One of our responsibilities is to talk about what is happening to them, understand what is happening to them and move through this (process) as quickly as possible to get them to the other (positive) side of this.”

In June, the Trump administration imposed a 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent tariffs on aluminum from Canada, Mexico and the European Union. The move was preceded in January by tariffs on foreign-made solar panels and washing machines. In September, the president levied more than $200 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods, one of the country’s top international trading partners, which retaliated with sanctions of its own.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, $568 million in Utah exports to China are being threatened by retaliatory tariffs, explained Miles Hansen, president and CEO of World Trade Center Utah.

“An analysis by WTC Utah shows that the state industries primarily affected by Chinese retaliatory tariffs include aluminum recycling, ranchers and beef processing, plastics manufacturing and agriculture,” he said.

Since the tariffs were imposed, the major impact has been felt by small- and medium-size businesses across the country, threatening the survival of many, Curtis said.

“If they can survive, there is good news and hope on the other end,” he said. “But the biggest question is can we get them through this period?”

“We have to,” he added. “We don’t have a choice.”

Curtis said getting the tariff strategy to work in the United States’ favor will require strengthening relationships with other trading partner countries to provide the manufacturing services so heavily relied upon through China right now and to work hard at getting new trade agreements in place, such as the revised North American trade deal that was renamed the United States-Mexico-Canada …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Business News