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Action in cartel conduct

BlueScope is in the media again, this time with a manager facing potential charges of obstruction to the competition regulator’s investigation into alleged cartel conduct.

The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) was in the news last week with regards to the opening of its competition regulation survey that will close on 23 October. The regulator is seeking feedback from stakeholders about their enforcement priorities.

According to the ACCC’s official statement, former BlueScope General Manager of Sales and Marketing, Jason Ellis, was charged with criminal obstruction against a Commonwealth Official. The CDPP alleged that these charges are related to a current yet sperate legal case being brought against Ellis and BlueScope for alleged cartel conduct.

Cartel conduct is one of the key enforcement priorities highlighted by the competition regulator.

“These obstruction allegations are very serious. This is the first time an individual has been charged with inciting the obstruction of a Commonwealth Official in relation to an ACCC investigation,” said ACCC Commissioner Rod Sims.

Cartel conduct case

At the end of August, the competition regulator commenced proceedings against BlueScope and its former General Manager for alleged cartel conduct that took place between September 2013 and June 2014.

According to the regulator, “BlueScope and Mr Ellis attempted to induce various steel distributors in Australia and overseas manufacturers to enter into agreements containing a price-fixing provision.”

This was the matter the ACCC was attempting to purse before the end of the year because of the six-year limitation on civil proceedings that concerns BlueScope’s alleged misconduct.

However, the communication from earlier this week indicated that the CDPP will not be proceeding with the cartel conduct case against either Ellis or the steel company.

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