Business owners and directors know that when they break the law, they suffer the consequences.
But that does not seen to apply if you work for Visy and have friends in high places.
The directors and executives of Visy can continue to act as directors despite the price-fixing cartel with Amcor costing customers – many of them small businesses – an estimated $300–700 million.
A spokesperson for the corporate watchdog ASIC said this morning that ASIC would not comment on the Visy case and it was a matter for the ACCC.
But the ACCC can do nothing as its new powers to fine and disqualify directors for breaching the Trade Practices Act only apply to breaches committed this year.
A lawyer close to the ACCC says that he does not know if ASIC has the power to act against the directors of Visy. SmartCompany also found out this morning that the ACCC has not communicated with ASIC over the Visy directors.
A lawyer close to the ACCC says in other countries such as the US, UK and Canada, price-fixing is a crime and subject to criminal penalties. It is an indictment on Australian law that price-fixing with the enormous consequences on consumers and business is not subject to criminal prosecutions, he says. The Howard Government promised more than three years ago to make collusion a criminal act but has not done so.
Worse, the price fixers are still able to hold positions as directors of companies. Pratt, who with Visy will pay a $36 million fine, is a director of more than 100 companies and is president of the Carlton Football Club.
Visy chief executive Harry Debney will have his fine paid by Visy and remains chief executive.
Yesterday, SmartCompany.com reported that many of the 17,000 small business owners who may have been ripped off by Visy and Amcor may opt out of the class action because they fear further bullying by the two giants.
So if the law enforcement bodies cannot do anything, what on earth is the Government doing?
Stories are emerging of the very large political donations and assistance that Pratt has given to both Labor and Liberal parties.
It all adds up to a very disturbing indictment on Australia’s political and legal system.
What do you think? Should Richard Pratt and Harry Debney resign as directors?