Deal in car­tel case

Townsville Bulletin - - Investor -

PAR­TIES in a class ac­tion al­leg­ing price-fix­ing and c a r t e l - l i k e b e h a v i o u r a g a i n s t c a r d b o a r d b o x gi­ants Am­cor Ltd and Visy Board Pty Ltd have reached a n ‘ ‘ i n - p r i n c i p l e a g r e e - ment’’, a court has heard.

L a w f i r m M a u r i c e Black­burn, on in­struc­tions from Jarra Creek Cen­tral Pack­ing Shed Pty Ltd, is con­duct­ing a class ac­tion against the two com­pa­nies.

They are seek­ing dam­ages for cus­tomers who suf­fered l osses f rom Am­cor and Visy’s al­leged car­tel be­hav­iour in the card­board box in­dus­try.

The six-week trial was due to be­gin in Syd­ney yes­ter­day, but now looks un­likely to pro­ceed.

Bar­ris­ter Tony Ban­non, SC, acti ng f or Mau­rice Black­burn, told the Fed­eral Court late yes­ter­day the par­ties had reached an ‘‘ in­prin­ci­ple agree­ment’’ and were work­ing on doc­u­ment­ing the deal.

Mr Ban­non asked t he c o u r t t o r e c o n v e n e t o - mor­row, when the par­ties would re­port progress.

F o r m e r A m c o r c h i e f ex­ec­u­tive Rus­sell Jones and for­mer Am­cor Aus­trala­sia man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Peter Brown were slated to give ev­i­dence on the first day of the trial.

But not long af­ter the court was in session, Mr B a n n o n r e q u e s t e d a 30-minute ad­journ­ment for talks be­tween the par­ties.

The ad­journ­ment was ex- tended to 12.30pm, then through lunch as the par­ties con­tin­ued last-minute dis­cus­sions.

When the court re­con­vened just af­ter 2.15pm, Mr Ban­non asked for a fur­ther ex­ten­sion, telling Jus­tice Peter Ja­cob­son the time so f a r h a d b e e n s p e n t pro­duc­tively.

Mr Ban­non later told the court of the in-prin­ci­ple agree­ment and asked the case be held over un­til to­morr o w a s t h e p a r t i e s worked to write up the deal.

The class ac­tion, filed in April 2006, sought dam­ages for cus­tomers that suf­fered losses as a con­se­quence of Am­cor and Visy’s ac­tions.

It al­leged that be­tween Jan­uary and April 2000, Am­cor and Visy en­tered into a car­tel to fix cor­ru­gated fi­bre­board pack­ag­ing prices and re­duce competition for each other’s cus­tomers.

Am­cor’ s h a l f - y e a r a c - counts, re­leased in Fe­bru­ary, showed the amount be­ing claimed against it in the class ac­tion was $ 321 mil­lion, in­clud­ing in­ter­est.

S e p a r a t e l y , t h e l a t e busi­ness­man Richard Pratt and his Visy group of com­pa­nies in 2007 said they’d ma­nip­u­lated the card­board mar­ket through price fix­ing and mar­ket-shar­ing in con­tra­ven­tion of the Trade Prac­tices Act with its ri­val, Am­cor.

The Fed­eral Court fined Visy $ 36 mil­lion, the largest fine in Aus­tralian his­tory.

PACK­ING IT IN : An agree­ment has been reached in a class ac­tion in­volv­ing Am­cor and Visy

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