IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Tyson Foods suspended top officials at its largest pork plant Thursday and launched an investigation into allegations that they bet on how many workers would get infected during a widespread coronavirus outbreak.
The company's president and CEO, Dean Banks, said he was "extremely upset" about the allegations against managers at its plant in Waterloo, Iowa, saying they do not represent the company's values. He said the company has retained the law firm Covington & Burling LLP to conduct an investigation, which will be led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
"If these claims are confirmed, we'll take all measures necessary to root out and remove this disturbing behavior from our company," Banks said in a statement.
Banks said the accused have been suspended without pay. A spokesman for the Arkansas-based company said it would not release their names during the investigation by Holder, who served as attorney general for six years under President Barack Obama.
Tyson has faced a backlash over recently amended wrongful death lawsuits in which plaintiffs' lawyers allege that Waterloo plant manager Tom Hart "organized a cash buy-in, winner-take-all betting pool for supervisors and managers to wager on how many employees would test positive for COVID-19."
Hart allegedly organized the pool last spring as the virus spread through the Waterloo plant, ultimately infecting more than 1,000 of its 2,800 workers, killing at least six and sending many others to the hospital. The outbreak eventually tore through the broader Waterloo community.
The lawyers represent the estates of Sedika Buljic, 58; Reberiano Garcia, 60; Jose Ayala Jr., 44; and Isidro Fernandez, age unknown. Buljic, Garcia and Fernandez died in April, and Ayala died May 25 after a six-week hospitalization.