(Reuters) – The Federal Court of Australia has imposed penalties of A$200,000 ($145,000) against Gary Helou, former managing director of dairy group Murray Goulburn Co-operative (AX:), for his role in misleading farmers about how much they would be paid for their milk, Australia’s competition regulator said on Thursday.
Murray Goulburn had reached a settlement in November with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in a court case over the misrepresentations about farmgate milk prices. The ACCC had said earlier it would not seek a penalty against the company.
“The penalty imposed against Mr Helou reflects his seniority at Murray Goulburn and involvement in misleading representations about the farmgate milk price,” ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said in a statement from the regulator.
Helou and Murray Goulburn could not be contacted immediately.
In April 2016, Murray Goulburn cut the price it paid milk suppliers by 20 percent in a move that angered dairy farmers, who said the cut came so late in the season they had little chance but to continue producing milk at a loss.
After a year-long investigation, the ACCC said Murray Goulburn had never indicated to its farmer shareholders any potential risk to prices.
Murray Goulburn confirmed the fine to Helou in its own statement, and said the Federal Court also ordered the dairy co-operative to contribute A$200,000 and Helou A$50,000 toward the ACCC’s court costs.
($1 = A$1.38)