Federal Court fines BlueScope record $57 million for cartel conduct in win for ACCC

The Federal Court has fined steelmaker BlueScope a record $57 million for cartel conduct.

The Federal Court has fined steelmaker BlueScope a record $57 million for cartel conduct.

BlueScope Steel has been handed a record $57 million fine for cartel conduct, after attempting to collude with other companies to adjust the price of steel products in Australia.

The company was found guilty in 2022 of approaching eight steel distributors in Australia and one overseas manufacturer, with the intention of entering agreements to manipulate the price of flat steel.

In a punishment handed down by the Federal Court on Tuesday, BlueScope’s former general manager Jason Ellis was also personally fined $575,000 for his role in the scheme, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said.

The watchdog first launched legal action against BlueScope in 2019.

Had BlueScope been successful in its endeavour to fix prices, it could have increased the cost of flat steel products which are widely used in the construction, manufacturing, automotive and transport industries, ACCC Commissioner Liza Carver said.

“This should serve as a strong warning to all businesses and individuals that attempting to fix prices with competitors will have very serious consequences, even if the attempt fails and they do not reach an agreement,” she said.

The court ruled directly that Mr Ellis could not claim his fine from an insurance company, saying him and others may otherwise calculate that the rewards from such conduct outweigh the risks of detection.

“It is important that the deterrent effect of the penalty being imposed is not undermined by the ability of company directors and officers to insure against the financial cost of the penalty,” Justice Michael O’Bryan said.

Mr Ellis pleaded guilty in September 2020 to two counts of inciting the obstruction of a commonwealth official for encouraging two other BlueScope employees to give false information and evidence to the ACCC.

He was convicted and sentenced to eight months in jail but was immediately released on a recognisance order in December 2020.

BlueScope and Mr Ellis were ordered to pay the ACCC’s legal costs.


Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.