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Canada Bread denies price fixing scheme in court filing, blames Maple Leaf

Maple Leaf says the allegations are "totally unfounded"

The bread supplier that admitted to price-fixing earlier this year says in new court filings that any anti-competitive behaviour it participated in was at the direction and to the benefit of its then-majority owner Maple Leaf Foods.

In a statement of defence for a class-action lawsuit alleging a bread price-fixing scheme, Canada Bread Co. Ltd. denied participating in a "lengthy, wide-ranging conspiracy" to fix the price of bread. 

It also denied profiting from the alleged conspiracy, or from the price increases it pleaded guilty to participating in as part of the Competition Bureau's investigation.

Allegations of improper pricing conduct at Canada Bread while Maple Leaf was a shareholder are "totally unfounded," said Suzanne Hathaway, Maple Leaf's senior vice-president, general counsel and communications, in an emailed statement.

"The Statement of Defence filed by Canada Bread ... simply repeats the baseless accusations they made earlier this year, which were widely reported," Hathaway said.

In June, Canada Bread was fined $50 million after pleading guilty to four counts of price-fixing bread products under the Competition Act. 

The Competition Bureau called it the highest price-fixing fine ever imposed by a Canadian court.

Canada Bread says in its statement of defence that during the class action period up until it was sold to Mexico-based Grupo Bimbo in 2014, its legal and compliance functions were directed by Maple Leaf senior management. 

"Current and former Maple Leaf executives with responsibilities at Canada Bread prior to the 2014 sale have all adamantly denied the allegations against them, and a comprehensive review of historic records does not show any illegal conduct as alleged," Hathaway said.

The Competition Bureau began investigating the alleged bread price-fixing agreements in January 2016. 

The class action lawsuit alleges that the defendants conspired to fix the price of packaged bread in Canada.

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