The lawyer at the centre of the $95 million Amcor Visy settlement has said that the payout for victims could have been more than double that if litigation was pursued.
Speaking to Lawyers Weekly, Maurice Blackburn principal Ben Slade said that while the $95 million settlement figure was an "excellent result" for his clients, the final payment could have been more than double that if the court process ran its full length.
"I think that if we had battled on for a further five years, including appeals to the High Court and back, and got 100 per cent of what the actual losses were, it would have been more than double that," Slade said. "But there were so many enormously complex aspects to this matter, and we got the biggest result in a cartel class action in Australia's history, and three times the amount that the ACCC imposed on the Visy company as a fine."
In November 2007 the ACCC fined Visy $36 million after the Federal Court found the Visy Board, including its owner Richard Pratt, had engaged in price fixing and market sharing with its rival Amcor, in breach of the Trade Practices Act.
Slade and fellow Maurice Blackburn principal Rebecca Gilsenan acted on behalf of 4660 group members, with Slade first becoming involved in the matter in 2004.
Arnold Bloch Leibler partner Leon Zwier acted for Visy, with Allens Arthur Robinson partners Guy Foster and Richard Harris acting for Amcor.
Maurice Blackburn did not use a litigation funder in this matter, with the firm saying that cartel victims did not pay for joining this action.
"We were initially enthusiastic about using a litigation funder, but IMF wanted sign-up from the biggest losers," Slade said. Large corporations including Coca-Cola Amatil, Goodman Fielder, Nestle and Fosters were affected by the anti-competitive conduct of the cartel.
Cadbury was another large company affected by the conduct of the cartel. In 2009, it settled a claim with the two companies after initially seeking nearly $250 million in damages.
The Maurice Blackburn class action included 4660 group members, including grocery and vegetable companies, poultry companies and members of the dairy industry.