BlueScope Steel’s former sales and marketing manager has been charged over allegations he tried to obstruct the competition watchdog’s investigation into the steelmaker’s alleged cartel conduct.
Jason Ellis has been charged with two counts of inciting the obstruction of a Commonwealth official in the performance of their functions, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said on Tuesday.
But neither Mr Ellis nor Bluescope will be charged with criminal cartel conduct, the ACCC said.
The company and Mr Ellis do face civil cartel proceedings for allegedly trying to induce steel distributors in Australia and overseas manufacturers in 2013 and 2014 to enter into agreements containing a price-fixing provision.
The ACCC said Mr Ellis’s alleged obstruction offences each carry a potential penalty of two years in jail.
“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,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.
BlueScope released a statement in which chairman John Bevan reiterated that he didn’t believe BlueScope or any former or current employees had engaged in cartel conduct.
The company declined to comment further as the matter was before the courts.
At 1047 AEST, BlueScope shares were up 0.7 per cent to $11.75.