Ninth Circuit Affirms Bumble Bee CEO’s Conviction Ruling There Is Evidence of Antitrust Activity

The Ninth Circuit issued a ruling on Wednesday affirming the Northern District of California conviction of Christopher Lischewski, CEO of Bumble Bee, a company which produces tuna.  The defendant was accused of conspiring with others in the industry to fix the price of canned tuna and cause consumers to pay artificially inflated prices. 

After a five-week trial in the matter, the jury convicted Lischewski of conspiring with other tuna companies, specifically StarKist and Chicken of the Sea, to control prices and raise their profits. The Ninth Circuit agreed that there was overwhelming evidence that the defendant was breaching federal antitrust laws, including documents and the testimony of co-conspirators that the conspiracy occurred and that Lischewski was involved. 

In its memorandum, the court addressed each of the challenges Lishewski presented to the Ninth Circuit as part of the appeal. , including “the constitutionality of the ‘per se rule in Sherman Act criminal cases’” and instructions given to the jury in the district court hearing. The Ninth Circuit found that the district court had not erred or abused its discretion, but gave the correct instructions and information to the jury. 

Specifically, it said that the California court “did not abuse its discretion in admitting an email between StarKist executives that discussed a conversation one of them had with Lischewski,” ruling that the email was admissible. The memorandum also noted that if evidence was improperly admitted, the error would be “harmless” in light of the overwhelming condemning evidence. 

The Ninth Circuit has also considered another lawsuit relating to the same alleged antitrust conspiracy, a multi-district lawsuit filed by three putative classes.  The court vacated class certification of the classes in early April determining that the preponderance of evidence needed to certify the classes was not determined by the Southern District of California, which is currently considering the lawsuit

Lischewski is represented by the Law Office of John D. Cline