Carter Holt fined $1.85m over price-fixing

20:25, Mar 19 2014

Forestry giant Carter Holt Harvey, owned by rich lister Graeme Hart, has agreed to pay $1.85 million in penalties for price-fixing in the Auckland timber market.

The Commerce Commission prosecuted the wood products company and one of its managers, Dean Dodds, for fixing prices for structural timber with Fletcher Distribution in Auckland.

The commission said Carter Holt and Dodds had co-operated with its investigation and had admitted breaching the act, paving the way for a penalty hearing in the High Court in Auckland today.

The Commerce Commission and Carter Holt agreed to recommend a fine of $1.85m, although Justice Geoffrey Venning has reserved his decision on the level of penalty.

Fletcher Distribution, a unit of listed construction group Fletcher Building, was given immunity for raising the alarm for the practices that occurred at its PlaceMakers Cook St and PlaceMakers Mt Wellington stores, which it uncovered during an internal audit.

The cartel is believed to have run from late 2012 until early 2013.

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When High Court proceedings were filed in December, PlaceMakers' owner, Fletcher Building, said the price arrangements benefited PlaceMakers pretax earnings by just under $100,000.

Fletcher Building said PlaceMakers would compensate affected customers supplied with timber against the irregular quotes.

Under the Commerce Act, the penalty for price-fixing is either a fine of up to $10m, a penalty related to the gain, or a percentage of the company's turnover.

Fairfax Media