IT will be weeks before details are revealed of the penalties and costs Murray Goulburn and the dairy processor’s former managing director Gary Helou have agreed to as part of a settlement struck with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Murray Goulburn last week revealed it had settled its case with the ACCC over allegations of unconscionable conduct and contraventions of consumer law.
However, details of the settlement remain confidential until the matter is heard and approved in the Federal Court on December 6.
The competition watchdog has taken Murray Goulburn to court over allegations of misleading or deceptive representations in setting the final 2015-2016 farmgate milk price at $6.05 per kilogram of milk solids.
The ACCC has also alleged Mr Helou and former Murray Goulburn chief financial officer Brad Hingle were aware that the opening price or the circumstances supporting the 2016 season opening price were “false, misleading or deceptive, and/or likely to mislead or deceive”.
In April 2016, Murray Goulburn drastically reduced its milk price from $6.05/kgMS to $4.75/kg to $5/kg and introduced an unpopular clawback regime on farmers for overpayments.
The commission is seeking a financial penalty against Mr Helou and costs against both Murray Goulburn and Mr Helou.
“Under the settlement, Murray Goulburn and Mr Helou will agree to the contraventions and the costs orders against each of them, and Mr Helou will agree to the proposed penalty,” Murray Goulburn said in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange.
Mr Hingle settled his case with the ACCC in August, agreeing not to be involved with a dairy industry-related business for three years.
He was also ordered to contribute $50,000 to the ACCC’s costs.
Two class actions have also been served on Murray Goulburn.
One is being led by a unit holder in the Murray Goulburn Unit Trust, John Webster, a trustee for the Elcar Pty Ltd Super Trust Fund.
Another lawsuit has been filed by law firm Slater and Gordon on behalf of more than 1000 investors who suffered when Murray Goulburn’s share price crashed after the company revised its 2016 farmgate milk price, triggering a dairy crisis.
Murray Goulburn shareholders approved the sale of the dairy co-operative to Canadian giant Saputo for $1.31 billion in April.