BlueScope Fined $57.5 Million


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Sydney, Aug 29: Australian steel manufacturer BlueScope Steel has been hit with a historic penalty of $57.5 million for its attempt to manipulate prices of flat steel products in the country.
This fine, ordered by the Federal Court, stands as the largest penalty ever imposed for cartel conduct within Australia.
The court’s decision also involved imposing a $575,000 penalty on BlueScope’s former general manager, Jason Ellis.
Notably, this penalty is barred from being recovered from an insurance company as per the court’s orders.
Justice O’Bryan, presiding over the case, emphasized the importance of a substantial penalty to discourage future misconduct.
O’Bryan highlighted the need to prevent directors and officers from insulating themselves from financial penalties through insurance coverage.
Last Dec, the Federal Court had established that BlueScope and Ellis sought to induce several steel distributors and an overseas manufacturer, Yieh Phui, to engage in agreements aimed at fixing or raising flat steel product prices.
ACCC Commissioner Liza Carver underscored the significance of this ruling as a warning to businesses and individuals.
Carver highlighted that even failed attempts to fix prices can lead to severe consequences, emphasizing the importance of deterring such behavior.
The penalty is seen as a deterrent against breaching Australia’s competition laws, as cartel conduct distorts pricing and limits economic growth.
If successful, BlueScope’s attempts could have hindered price competition and elevated costs for flat steel products used extensively in construction, manufacturing, automotive, and transport industries. Justice O’Bryan’s verdict emphasized the deliberate and systematic nature of BlueScope’s conduct, noting that significant penalties were necessary to achieve both specific and general deterrence.
The court deemed BlueScope’s actions to be serious, conducted at a high level within the company, and capable of causing substantial losses while reaping significant financial benefits. BlueScope and Ellis have also been instructed to cover the ACCC’s costs.
In a statement to the ASX, BlueScope indicated that it has 28 days to appeal the decision if it chooses to do so.

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