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Tasmanian Country - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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