Packaging giant Amcor and Visy group are reported to have settled the biggest class action in Australian history, on the eve of the trial, that was due to last six weeks, striking a deal believed to be worth up to $150m. This will see Amcor picking up two-thirds of the bill and Visy the balance, according to Australian media reports.
According to media sources, the parties will meet again in court tomorrow to report on progress to close the deal.
Last year, the packaging giant rejected an estimate for damages totalling A$466m (€316m) - plus A$231m (€156.7m) in interest - made by Jarra Creek, in an economist report as part of a class action against the company.
FoodProductionDaily.com contacted Amcor but nobody from the company was able to comment prior to publication.
A number of terms of the settlement remain to be finalised, said the company. Further details of the settlement arrangement will be announced once they have been confirmed, said Amcor.
The action, that was filed in 2006, alleges that in early 2000, senior Amcor and Visy executives entered into a 'primary cartel arrangement' to fix corrugated fibreboard packaging (CFP) prices, said Maurice Blackburn.
The lawyers said the initial cartel was expanded through “secondary agreements” to increase CFP prices each year from 2000 to 2003. The class action included all parties who purchased and paid more than A$100,000 for CFP between 1 May 2000 and 1 May 2005.
The law firm was representing more than 4500 group members who were seeking compensation for losses made as a result of the alleged price-fixing between 2000 and 2005.
The action alleged that those in the food and beverage industries were among those suffering losses as a result of the cartel - including producers of fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, milk, beer and wine, as well as players from the pharmaceutical sector.
Some class members were claiming multi-million dollar losses, according to Maurice Blackburn.
The class action was triggered after a case brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in 2005 resulted in Visy admitting to 69 breaches of the country’s Trade Practices Act. A plea deal between the ACCC and Visy saw it agree to pay a fine of A$36m – with two of its board members fined a further A$1.5m. Amcor and its former executives were granted immunity from prosecution after turning whistle-blowers in the case, said the lawyers.
Imposing the penalties in 2007, Justice Heerey said that the fines were: ” . . .reflective of the fact that this must be, by far, the most serious cartel case to come before the Court in the 30 plus years in which price fixing has been prohibited by statute.”