A jury acquitted five poultry industry executives in the third price-fixing trial brought by the Department of Justice (DOJ), including Reichman Jorgensen Lehman & Feldberg LLP (RJLF) client Roger Austin, a former vice president of Pilgrim's Pride, concerning an alleged scheme to fix prices and rig bids for chickens sold to grocery stores and restaurants.

The not guilty verdict was announced on July 7, 2022, after jurors deliberated for a day and a half, following a four-week trial before Chief Judge Philip A. Brimmer in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. This long-awaited victory follows two mistrials in December 2021 and March 2022 when jurors deadlocked after weeks of trial.

"Withstanding the pressure in cases like this takes immense courage by our clients," said RJLF partner Michael S. Feldberg, lead counsel for Defendant Roger Austin and head of the Firm's White Collar Defense practice. "Our clients continued to stress their innocence even after being subjected to three trials by the Government. The jury worked hard to weigh the evidence in this case, and we are very pleased with the verdict."

The case stems from a DOJ indictment that charged 10 executives with criminal violations of the Sherman Act, which prosecutors allege occurred as part of a scheme that purportedly lasted from 2012 to 2019 to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chickens—a $28 billion per year industry in the United States. The DOJ alleged the executives kept in close contact through text message, phone, and email to coordinate bids made to restaurants, grocery stores, and buying co-ops, according to prosecutors.

Along with Mr. Feldberg, the RJLF trial team included counsel Julie Withers, associates Laura E. Carwile, David A. King, Jr., Parshad Brahmbhatt, Nathaniel Warner, and legal assistant Jared Rodgers.

The case is U.S. v. Penn et al., case number 1:20-cr-00152, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.

Source: Reichman Jorgensen Lehman & Feldberg LLP