June 2, 2017 / 10:11 PM / 2 years ago

CORRECTED-Former tuna company executive accused of price-fixing

(In paragraph 5, corrects parent company to the Dongwon Group)

WASHINGTON, June 2 (Reuters) - A former tuna company executive faces one charge of conspiring with officials from other tuna companies to fix the price of canned seafood from 2011 to 2013, according to a court filing.

Stephen Hodge was charged on May 30 through a “criminal information,” a type of charging document prosecutors tend to use in connection with people who are negotiating plea deals.

The Justice Department declined to say if a plea agreement would be coming. Law360, which first reported the charge, identified Hodge as working for StarKist. Hodge could not be reached for comment.

The canned tuna market in the United States has long been dominated by three companies. Thai Union’s Chicken of the Sea is the largest, followed by Bumble Bee and StarKist. In December 2015, the Justice Department stopped Thai Union Group from buying Bumble Bee.

StarKist is a subsidiary of the Dongwon Group.

Bumble Bee Foods LLC agreed in May to plead guilty to one count of fixing the prices of canned tuna and to pay a criminal fine of $25 million. Two of its executives agreed to plead guilty to price-fixing in December.

In the filing with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the Justice Department said that Hodge met with officials from other canned seafood companies, which were not named, “to fix, raise and maintain the prices” of canned seafood. (Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by David Gregorio)

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