The chief executive officer of
The allegations against the leader of a top American poultry producer were the latest bombshell to hit the meat industry that’s been reeling from thousands of workers sickened by Covid-19, forcing shutdowns at processing plants. The U.S. government is also
It’s rare for the CEO of a company the size of Pilgrim’s Pride to be indicted by federal prosecutors. Penn is the most high profile executive to be charged by the department’s antitrust division since Chesapeake Energy Corp. co-founder
The case against Pilgrim’s, which is majority owned by Brazilian food giant JBS SA, is part of an ongoing investigation into allegations of price fixing by chicken processors that came to light
Also charged Wednesday were Mikell Fries, the president of
The indictment cites text messages and emails between the defendants and other unnamed employees, including one email between Penn and one of his employees in which he referred to another supplier:
“[Supplier-3] should pay for being short. It costs money for them to fill orders for which they don’t have the chickens. They have been adding market share and still trying to do – selling cheap chicken and being short. Doesn’t make sense. We are enabling the town drunk by giving him beer for Thanksgiving instead of walking him into an AA meeting.”
In another text message exchange, Penn and the same employee discuss a different supplier’s offers:
Supplier-1-Employee-3 “Buyer said we were .07 high so that must be [Supplier-3’s] price…”
PENN “They are morons”
Pilgrim’s Pride and JBS didn’t respond to a request for comment, and Claxton declined to comment.
“Executives who cheat American consumers, restauranteurs, and grocers, and compromise the integrity of our food supply, will be held responsible for their actions,”
Pilgrim’s Pride shares fell as much as 16% on the news. Tyson sank as much as 7.6% and Sanderson Farms slid as much as 14%, while JBS fell as much as 8% in Sao Paulo trading.
“This is clearly negative for our covered broiler processing companies and particularly negative for PPC,” said
(Updates with details of messages in seventh paragraph)
--With assistance from
To contact the reporter on this story:
To contact the editors responsible for this story:
David Marino, Millie Munshi
© 2020 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.