American retail giant Walmart filed suit in Arkansas Monday, 31 October, alleging a conspiracy between Bumble Bee Foods, Tri-Union Seafoods and StarKist to fix the prices of packaged tuna products in the United States.
The lawsuit alleges that the three companies, dubbed the “big three” tuna companies because they own a combined 70 to 80 percent of the multibillion-dollar packaged tuna industry in the United States, colluded to increase prices for packaged tuna from around 2008-2010 until at least July 2015, despite dropping domestic demand.
Walmart joins other major retailers including Wegmans, Kroger, Albertsons, Hy-Vee, Publix and Meijer in suing the “big three” for price-fixing.
The U.S. Department of Justice is also investigating the matter as part of a criminal antitrust investigation, according to legal documents filed in California court by the DOJ.
Representatives from StarKist and Chicken of the Sea (Tri-Union sells tuna in the United States under the brand name Chicken of the Sea) declined to comment on the suit. Bumble Bee Foods did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In its suit, Walmart said it purchased approximately USD 400 million worth of packaged tuna products annually from the big three tuna companies between 2010 and 2015, when the fraud is alleged to have occurred.
The lawsuit seeks damages estimated at three times the amount Walmart alleges it was overcharged by – a total to be determined at trial.