Ex-ASX company exec jailed for blocking ACCC investigation

Judges gavel and handcuffs

Former general manager at BlueScope Steel Limited (ASX: BSL) Jason Ellis has been sentenced to 8 months’ prison.

Ellis had pleaded guilty earlier this year to inciting colleagues to give false evidence to an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) investigation.

The competition authority was probing whether BlueScope and Ellis had been involved in cartel behaviour between 2013 and 2014, which has resulted in a separate Federal Court case.

Ellis, as BlueScope’s general manager of sales and marketing, had instructed 2 staff members to give false evidence to ACCC officials.

The false testimony involved conversations he and the colleagues had with other steel companies about fixing prices.

On the obstruction conviction, Magistrate Jennifer Atkinson this week said “a person needs to allow investigations to run properly, without any attempt to hinder”.

Conviction makes history

According to ACCC chair Rod Sims, Ellis was the first person to be charged and convicted of “inciting the obstruction of an ACCC investigation”.

“The conviction and sentence reflect the seriousness of this conduct and should send a strong message to anyone contemplating obstructing or inciting someone else to obstruct ACCC officers,” he said.

“We take any attempts to prevent the ACCC from obtaining full and truthful accounts of conduct under investigation extremely seriously and won’t hesitate to prosecute any similar cases in the future.”

After handing down the jail sentence, Atkinson released Ellis upon entering into a recognizance conditional on 2 years of good behaviour. She also ordered Ellis to pay a penalty of $10,000.

The conviction was liable to a maximum sentence of 2 years’ jail. A guilty plea in the local court, which Ellis took, carries a maximum of 1 year imprisonment.

The Motley Fool contacted BlueScope for comment but had not heard back at the time of writing.

Sims said Ellis’ efforts to stop the investigation didn’t deter his team.

“Not only did we continue our investigation and take legal action against BlueScope and Mr Ellis for alleged cartel behaviour… we also referred the obstruction conduct to the [Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions] to consider prosecuting Mr Ellis.”

BlueScope’s share price was up 2.55%, trading at $17.28 at 3.15pm AEDT. It has been on a spectacular rally recently, rising 26% since the start of October.

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Motley Fool contributor Tony Yoo has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. 

The post Ex-ASX company exec jailed for blocking ACCC investigation appeared first on The Motley Fool Australia.

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