Jason Ellis, a former general manager of sales and marketing at BlueScope Steel Limited (BlueScope), has today entered a guilty plea in Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court to one charge of inciting the obstruction of Commonwealth public officials in the performance of their functions.
The charge arose from actions taken by Mr Ellis during the ACCC investigation into alleged cartel conduct by BlueScope and its representatives. The matter is being prosecuted by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP).
Mr Ellis has pleaded guilty to inciting two fellow BlueScope employees to give false information and evidence to the ACCC regarding discussions he and those BlueScope employees had in meetings with certain steel companies. These matters were ‘rolled up’ into one obstruction charge, as part of Mr Ellis’ guilty plea, accepted by the court today.
“This is the first time an individual has been charged with inciting the obstruction of a Commonwealth public official in relation to an ACCC investigation,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
The matter will now proceed to sentencing and is next listed for a sentencing hearing in the Local Court on 8 December 2020.
Separate civil cartel proceedings filed by the ACCC against BlueScope and Mr Ellis remain before the Federal Court. In those proceedings, the ACCC alleges that between September 2013 and June 2014, BlueScope and Mr Ellis attempted to induce various steel distributors in Australia and overseas manufacturers to enter agreements containing a price fixing provision.
As the matters are currently before the courts, the ACCC will not be providing further comment at this time.
A “rolled-up” charge is one in which more than one offence forms part of the charge. “Rolling-up” is a procedure that can occur by agreement with a defendant and only for the purpose of a plea of guilty.
The ACCC investigates cartel conduct, manages the immunity process, takes proceedings in the Federal Court in respect of civil cartel contraventions, and refers serious cartel conduct and, where appropriate, other conduct which may amount to obstruction of justice offences to the CDPP for consideration for prosecution.
The CDPP is responsible for prosecuting criminal offences in accordance with the Prosecution Policy of the Commonwealth.
Anyone with information about any cartel conduct is urged to call the ACCC Cartel Hotline on (02) 9230 3894 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.