The Justice Department is investigating a chicken producer owned by the Brazilian meatpacking giant under scrutiny for pocketing millions in farm bailouts from the Trump administration, according to a recent court filing.
Pilgrim’s Pride — a U.S. chicken producer owned by Brazil’s JBS SA — is being investigated along with several other major poultry companies for allegedly participating in a sweeping price-fixing scheme, federal prosecutors revealed in a Friday filing at the U.S. District Court in Chicago.
The Justice Department stepped in and confirmed the probe while asking that the court put a class-action civil lawsuit against Pilgrim’s Pride and the other companies on ice, so that the feds can continue their criminal inquiry uninhibited.
Pilgrim’s Pride is one of several American subsidiaries of JBS SA, the world’s largest meatpacker, which is controlled by Joesley and Wesley Batista, brothers who have admitted to bribing hundreds of government officials in Brazil.
Another such subsidiary is JBS USA, a Colorado-based meatpacker that has come under congressional fire for pocketing nearly $62.5 million in taxpayer-funded pork product bailout contracts from President Donald Trump’s Agriculture Department, as first reported by the New York Daily News last month.
The bailouts come from a Trump program that’s supposed to help American farmers having a hard time selling their products because of the administration’s trade war with China and other nations.
Congressional Democrats have questioned how giving bailouts to foreign-owned entities like JBS helps struggling American farmers.
The price-fixing allegations are only the latest claims of wrongdoing against JBS and its various subsidiaries.
Other court filings reveal the Justice Department has been probing JBS for possible violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The behemoth meatpacker has separately been fined by the Agriculture Department for alleged violations of the U.S. Packers and Stockyards Act.
A spokesman for JBS told the Daily News that “Pilgrim’s strongly denies any allegations” of price-fixing. “The company welcomes the opportunity to defend itself against these claims through the legal process.”