A prominent Canadian bread manufacturer will pay C$50 million ($38 million, £30 million) for its role in a price-fixing scheme, the largest fine of its kind ever imposed by a Canadian court.
Wednesday, Canada Bread pled guilty to four counts of price-fixing dating back to the middle of the 2000s. The guilty plea is the culmination of a lengthy investigation by a federal competition monitor. The Competition Bureau referred to the penalty as a "significant milestone" in its ongoing investigation.
Matthew Boswell, an official with the Competition Bureau, was quoted as saying in a statement that "fixing the price of bread, a food staple of Canadian households, was a serious criminal offense."
Canada Bread has stated in court documents that were filed in the Ontario Superior Court that it conspired with its rival company, Weston Foods, to increase the prices of bread items such as sandwich bread, hot dog buns, and rolls. The price fixing led to two separate price rises for freshly made bread and other baked goods, the first one occurring in 2007 and the second one occurring in 2011.
Canada Bread, a significant producer and distributor of bread and bakery goods, is now owned by the Mexican company Grupo Bimbo, whereas in the past, Maple Leaf Foods was in charge of operating the business. Grupo Bimbo claimed in a statement that it was ignorant of any price fixing when it acquired the company in 2014 and that it remained unaware until search warrants arrived in 2017. In 2014, Grupo Bimbo acquired the corporation.
Under new ownership, Canada Bread has committed itself to being an ethical supplier to the valued consumers and to making bread an accessible and dependable food source for Canadians, according to a statement released by the company's vice president, Alice Lee. The statement was made public by the company.
According to the Competition Bureau, the top leadership at Canada Bread that was responsible for the price fixing has since left the company and is no longer employed there. During its tenure as a shareholder in Canada Bread, Maple Leaf Foods issued a statement stating that it was unaware of any wrongdoing by Canada Bread or its senior leadership.
He mentioned that they will vigorously defend themselves against any allegation that they have engaged in inappropriate or anticompetitive conduct, and they are unaware of and have never engaged in any such conduct. The Competition Bureau stated that the probe into bread price-fixing "remains a top priority"
Previously, it was suggested that approximately C$1.50 was added to the price of bread over the duration of the alleged 16-year scheme. According to the watchdog, Weston Foods and Loblaw Companies Limited disclosed their participation in an "industry-wide price-fixing arrangement" involving the coordination of retail and wholesale bread prices in December 2017.
As a result of their cooperation, the two businesses were granted immunity from prosecution. A number of additional prominent grocery stores operating in the United States are still being investigated. None have acknowledged culpability. Separately, the Competition Bureau is anticipated to conclude its investigation of competition in the country's grocery sector this month. This investigation was initiated last year in response to rising food prices, which grocery store proprietors attribute to inflation.