Cuomo’s Chief Ethics Officer Joins JBS Unit Facing Chicken Cartel Claims

Cuomo’s Chief Ethics Officer Joins JBS Unit Facing Chicken Cartel Claims

Victoria Lane, who served as former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s chief ethics attorney before he resigned in response to allegations of sexual harassment, has joined Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. as the world’s second-largest chicken producer. You face a variety of competition-related antitrust and legal issues. compliance issues.

Lane was hired in December as a senior director of ethics and compliance at Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., a subsidiary of JBS SA, according to the company. The former Hinckley, Allen & Snyder litigator was Cuomo’s senior special ethics, risk and compliance advisor for about seven months before she resigned last year.

The company and some of its rivals in the poultry industry are seeking to turn the page on allegations that for years they engaged in anti-competitive business practices, including acting as a cartel. Pilgrim’s Pride has agreed to pay approximately $ 186 million to settle a couple of civil and criminal antitrust cases in the past two years.

Lane was part of a Cuomo ethics, risk and compliance initiative that the Times Union reported last year was designed to bring a private sector risk management model to state agencies and public authorities. The program also helped Cuomo and his allies avoid potential negative information that could harm his administration, according to the Times Union.

Governor Kathy Hochul ended the ethics, risk and compliance program shortly after succeeding Cuomo in August. Lane was assigned to the state Executive Chamber but decided to resign, according to the Times Union.

Lane did not respond to a request for comment.

Internal ‘evolution’

Lane meets at Pilgrim’s with former federal prosecutor Michael Koenig, with whom he worked at a couple of law firms.

Koenig, who also did not respond to a request for comment, joined Pilgrim’s in August as head of ethics and compliance. Lane now reports to Koenig in his new role, said Nikki Richardson, a spokeswoman for Pilgrim.

Koenig briefs Kevin Arquit, Richardson said. Former Kasowitz antitrust practice leader Benson Torres, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and Weil, Gotshal & Manges in New York was hired by JBS last year to be the company’s chief legal officer.

“Hiring Kevin and Mike as senior executives in newly created positions are critical steps in our evolution as we strengthen our capabilities and expertise in ethics and compliance,” Richardson said in an email.

Pilgrim’s has been waging a variety of legal battles related to antitrust laws, including a wage-fixing case filed in 2019 against the company and other poultry processors accusing them of depressing the wages of immigrant workers.

The company reached a proposed settlement of nearly $ 76 million last year in a chicken cartel class action case. Pilgrim’s also agreed in 2020 to pay a $ 110 million fine for its role in an antitrust criminal case brought by federal prosecutors that caught former CEO Jayson Penn.

Penn left Pilgrim’s in September 2020 after the Justice Department indicted him and several other poultry industry executives in a market manipulation investigation. The criminal case against Penn, William Lovette, another former Pilgrim’s CEO, and eight other defendants ended in mistrial last month.

The lead federal prosecutor in that case was Michael T. Koenig. Richardson said the Justice Department’s Koenig is not related to Pilgrim’s new compliance leader.

Legal expertise

Koenig, himself a former federal prosecutor and now Pilgrim’s chief enforcement officer, has been called one of New York’s most politically powerful attorneys.

Jim Malatras, who resigned last month as chancellor of the State University of New York in the wake of Cuomo’s resignation, reportedly hired Koenig to represent him before Hinckley Allen’s former partner joined Pilgrim’s last summer.

Koenig was also hired in 2014 to represent the dissolved Moreland Commission, a public entity created by Cuomo to investigate corruption in New York politics. That body was dissolved as part of a budget agreement between Cuomo and the state legislature, although its files were sent to federal prosecutors in Manhattan.

Lane, who began her legal career two decades ago as an associate at Hughes Hubbard & Reed, went on to work with Koenig at Greenberg Traurig, where she spent half a dozen years. Lane left that firm with Koening in early 2012 to open an office for Hinckley Allen, where she finally became a partner in 2015.

Richardson, the spokeswoman for Pilgrim’s, said the company did not have a pre-existing relationship with Lane or Koenig during their time in private practice.

An online job listing for Lane’s title at Pilgrim’s indicates that the position is based at the company’s headquarters in Greeley, Colorado, and has a base salary ranging from $ 175,000 to $ 250,000. Another job listing for an ethics and compliance director has a salary range between $ 125,000 and $ 175,000.

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