Pratt prosecution could help Visy/Amcor class action

The class action pitting hundreds of small and medium sized business against packaging giants Amcor and Visy could get a leg-up from the case currently proceeding against Richard Pratt.

The class action pitting hundreds of small and medium sized business against packaging giants Amcor and Visy could get a leg-up from the case currently proceeding against Richard Pratt.

The law firm leading the class action, Maurice Blackburn, has no role in the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission prosecution of Visy founder Pratt.

But Maurice Blackburn principal Rebecca Gilsenan says she and her team are keeping a close eye on the proceedings.

“It doesn’t impact directly, although it is getting priority from Visy’s lawyers because it’s so important – criminal proceedings tend to get people’s attention. But the more issues that come out, the more we learn that could be useful for our clients,” Gilsenan says.

The class action litigation will seek to recover compensation from both Visy and its cartel co-participant Amcor on behalf of companies that bought more than $10,000 worth of their packaging products during the relevant period.

While some large companies have opted not to participate in the case – presumably having reached their own settlements – hundreds of small and medium sized business have registered as members of the class action.

“We have a lot of SMEs who have registered interest and are in regular communication with us about the losses they have sustained, so we have had a good response from SMEs,” Gilsenan says.

The case is currently at the document discovery stage, with Maurice Blackburn lawyers currently wading through more than 25,000 documents obtained from the firms and the ACCC.

The aim is to apply to the Federal Court early next year for a trial date, leaving the trial to commence – unless there is a settlement – by mid 2008.

If the matter goes to trial it is likely to be a large and complex proceeding, particularly if Amcor and Visy hold to their current position of contesting all of the class action’s claims.

“We are hoping they will accede to the admission they have made elsewhere, but if they don’t it will be a very long trial,” Gilsenan says.

The high-profile Pratt matter has increased pressure on the Federal Government to harden up criminal cartel laws currently being drafted. According to one report today, it has decided to drop a requirement in the proposed laws that cartel conduct by a business owner or manager must be deemed dishonest before they can be found guilty under the laws.

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