Mrs Baird’s, Former Executive Charged with Price Fixing
DALLAS (AP) _ Mrs Baird’s Bakeries Inc., the largest family-owned bakery in the nation, and its former president today are facing federal indictments that they conspired to fix the price of bread in much of Texas.
A federal grand jury in Dallas returned two-count felony indictments against Mrs Baird’s and Floyd Carroll Baird late Thursday afternoon, the Justice Department said today. They are accused of conspiring to hike the prices of bread for more than 15 years.
The Justice Department said the charges are the first from an ongoing antitrust investigation into alleged price-fixing and bid-rigging in the wholesale bread and bread products industry.
``The Antitrust Division is committed to prosecuting criminal price fixing, especially when it involves a staple like bread,″ said Anne Bingaman, assistant attorney general in charge of the antitrust investigation.
The indictment says the conspiracy continued from 1977 until March 1993 in East Texas, and 1984 to June 1992 in West Texas.
``Mrs Baird’s vigorously denies the accusations by the federal government,″ chairman Allen Baird said in a written statement. ``I want our Texas customers to know that Mrs Baird’s has been engaged in a fierce competition with outside national bakeries for many years. In fact, our prices have gone down in recent years while the national average has gone up.″
Carroll Baird’s lawyer, Tim Evans, said his client is innocent.
``It is obvious from the indictment that a competitor has made a deal with the federal antitrust department to trade their skin for Mrs Baird’s,″ he said.
Carroll Baird, 67, stepped down as company president in May and also recently left its board. However, company spokesman David Margulies said that was unrelated to the indictments. In an ongoing company restructuring, the Baird family has hired an outsider as president and elected non-family members to its board, also reducing its size.
Mrs Baird’s was founded in 1908, when Ninnie Baird started baking bread for her Fort Worth neighbors to support her eight children. The company now employs more than 3,000 people. Nineteen Baird family members remain involved in the business.