In a March 29, 2017 press release, the Antitrust Division announced its annual newsletter recapping highlights from the previous year’s efforts. The entire Spring 2017 Update update covers all of the Divion’s activities, including civil and criminal enforcement, international cooperation and competition advocacy. This excerpt demonstrates how the civil enforcement program can sometimes lead to a criminal investigation and charges:
CIVIL INVESTIGATIONS UNCOVER EVIDENCE OF CRIMINAL CONDUCT
The Division recently investigated the proposed merger of Thai Union Group P.C.L., owner of Tri-Union Seafoods LLC, d/b/a Chicken of the Sea International (Chicken of the Sea) and Bumble Bee Foods LLC (Bumble Bee), which was publicly announced in mid-2015. As civil attorneys reviewed information and party materials produced in the ordinary course of business, they discovered materials that appeared to raise criminal concerns. Recognizing the potential criminal implications of the materials, they reached out to their criminal counterparts in the Division.
As a result of the civil attorneys’ keen eyes, the Division opened a criminal investigation into collusion in the packaged seafood industry. To date, the criminal investigation has resulted in guilty pleas from two senior vice presidents of leading packaged seafood companies for conspiring to fix the price of packaged seafood, such as canned tuna. The Division’s criminal investigation is ongoing. The merger, however, was abandoned.
Pre-merger due diligence should include many items, but competition troubleshooting should definitely be on the agenda.
Thanks for reading.