Bluescope boss faces cartel claims
A former senior BlueScope Steel executive faces jail time over an alleged attempt to rig global steel prices.
BlueScope's former general manager of sales and marketing, Jason Ellis, has been charged with two counts of inciting the obstruction of a Commonwealth official in the performance of his or her functions.
The charges carry a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment per offence.
The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) laid the charges after an extensive investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
The authorities were looking into alleged attempts to control prices among BlueScope's rival steel manufacturers and distributors in Australia and overseas.
“These obstruction allegations are very serious,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said.
“This is the first time an individual has been charged with inciting the obstruction of a Commonwealth official in relation to an ACCC investigation,” Mr Sims said.
The CDPP had considered laying criminal cartel offences against BlueScope and Mr Ellis, but it dropped the broader action.
However, separate civil cartel proceedings have been filed by the ACCC against BlueScope and Mr Ellis.
It is alleged that between September 2013 and June 2014, BlueScope and Mr Ellis attempted to induce various steel distributors in Australia and overseas manufacturers to enter agreements containing a price-fixing provision.
BlueScope chairman John Bevan said the company is working with the ACCC, and even conducted its own internal investigation into the matter.
“While we have not seen all the information relied upon by the ACCC, based on what we know today, we do not believe BlueScope, or any current or former employees, have engaged in cartel conduct,” Mr Bevan said.