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Bingo Industries fined $30m for cartel conduct

A formerly ASX-listed skip bin operator that is now owned by a Macquarie Group (ASX: MQG) subsidiary has been fined $30 million for cartel conduct by the Federal Court of NSW over price fixing practices with competitors in Sydney, to the detriment of consumers and collection services.

The $30 million fine given to Bingo Industries represents a 30 per cent discount due to its early plea of guilty and cooperation with the authorities, and is the second-largest fine imposed for criminal cartel offences under the Competition and Consumer Act.

In mid-2019 Bingo and two affiliates of its competitor Aussie Skips reached an arrangement to lift prices for demolition waste collection services by 25 per cent and at least 22 per cent respectively, assisted by Bingo’s then CEO Daniel Tartak and Aussie Skips’ then chief executive Emmanuel Roussakis.

The pair first met in a café at Tartak’s request and then engaged in a series of WhatsApp messages to make the arrangements.

“Over the following three months Bingo, aided by Mr Tartak, gave effect to the arrangements that it had made with Aussie Skips and Aussie Recycling. So too did the Aussie companies aided by Mr Roussakis,” Justice Michael Wigney said this morning.

“There could be no doubt that it was likely that some customers paid more than they otherwise would have paid for collection services and processing services as a result of the anti-competitive arrangements between Bingo and the Aussie companies.

“Mr Tartak was no doubt aware of the likely effects of the arrangements,” the judge said, noting the arrangements were “effectively abandoned” in September of that year.

Justice Wigney emphasised the seriousness of Tartak’s offence, describing his conduct as “covert and deliberate”.

“Cartel offences which Mr Tartak committed were also undoubtedly serious. He was the chief executive officer of a very large public company, which was a major player in the market for waste collections services in the Sydney metropolitan region,” Justice Wigney said.

“He caused that company to make and give effect to an arrangement that included a cartel provision with a competitor in that market.

“The arrangement which persisted for a not insubstantial period of time stifled and distorted price competition in that market to the benefit of Bingo, and to the detriment to consumers and collection services in the Sydney metropolitan region.”

He said that officers of corporations in similar positions to Tartak should be left in no doubt that they will face “condign punishment if they cause their corporations to enter into or give effect to cartel arrangements”.

But the judge also took into account Tartak’s early plea of guilty, and said his subjective circumstances compelled a degree of leniency. With no prior convictions, Justice Wigney said Tartak’s actions were out of character for a devoted and supportive family man who is “highly respected and admired by business colleagues and church, school and community…

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