Washington state sues StarKist, former Bumble Bee CEO for overcharging consumers

Washington Attorney General
Washington Attorney General's Office
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson. 

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Attorney General Bob Ferguson has sued packaged tuna manufacturer StarKist and a former Bumble Bee CEO for reportedly overcharging Washington consumers for more than a decade.

Ferguson alleges StarKist, its parent company Dongwon and former Bumble Bee Foods CEO Christopher Lischewski engaged in a price-fixing conspiracy from 2004 to 2015 to drive up the cost of packaged tuna. Ferguson says this is a violation of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act and forced Washingtonians to pay at least $6 million more than they should have.

“We cannot have a free market when corporate titans are able to tip the scales to their own bank accounts,” Ferguson said. “Washingtonians lost millions as a result of this corporate greed. I intend to get that back for them.”

Ferguson’s lawsuit comes after a federal probe into the proposed purchase of Bumble Bee by Chicken of the Sea’s parent company Thai Union Group.

Lischewski and executives at StarKist and Chicken of the Sea routinely communicated about ways to keep the price of tuna artificially high for consumers in order to reap more profits. Executives at the three competitors called, texted and used private emails to avoid detection.

In December, a federal jury found Lischewski guilty of criminal price fixing in a case brought forward by the U.S. Department of Justice. He now faces up to a 10-year prison sentence.

Ferguson’s lawsuit asks the court to order the defendants pay restitution to Washington consumers as well as the costs and fees of bringing the case.