Skip bin operator Bingo Industries, a former ASX-listed company that was taken over last year through a $2.3 billion bid by Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets, has pleaded guilty to criminal cartel offences involving the price fixing of demolition waste services in Sydney.
The action, brought after an investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, has also netted former Bingo CEO Daniel Tartak who is facing two criminal cartel offences. The charges carry a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment and-or a fine of up to $444,000 for a director.
Bingo Industries faces a corporate penalty of up to $10 million or three times the benefit obtained by the price fixing, whichever is greater. Failing that, Bingo could be ordered to pay 10 per cent of annual turnover, which totalled $486.7 million in FY20.
The ACCC investigation centred on Bingo’s business activities in mid-2019 when the company came to an agreement with competitors Aussie Skips Bin Services and Aussie Skips Recycling to fix and increase the prices that they charged for their skip bins and their waste processing services for building and demolition waste in Sydney.
The ACCC alleges that the arrangement breached the cartel provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act.
“When companies arrange to fix prices, they usually do so to increase their profits, and it is consumers that pay the increased cost,” says ACCC chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb.
“We are committed to detecting and investigating serious cartel allegations and taking appropriate action against those who are a party to illegal cartel behaviour, including referral of matters to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP).
“Cartel conduct not only frequently impacts consumers, but it can also significantly harm competing businesses and the economy more broadly. Trying to detect cartels early and working with whistleblowers is an essential component of our work.”
Bingo says it co-operated with the ACCC and CDPP throughout the investigation and expressed ‘regrets that the matter occurred’.
“It does not reflect Bingo’s values or standards of conduct,” the company says in a statement.
“The matter primarily relates to certain pricing over a period of about two months over July and August 2019 in Bingo’s Sydney skip bin and processing businesses, the latter predominantly at three facilities.
“Since the matter occurred, there have been significant changes in Bingo’s ownership, board and executive team, including improvements to Bingo’s governance processes.”
Even though Bingo has pleaded guilty to the charges, the matter is still to heard by the Federal Court which will ultimately decide the penalty to be imposed on the company and Tartak, who prior to the takeover had a significant holding in the company.
Bingo Industries is currently controlled by a consortium comprising Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets and CPE Capital.
The company was founded by the Tartak family in 2005 with just four garbage trucks, growing its fleet to 330 in Sydney and Melbourne at the time of the takeover.
Tartak had headed the company since 2015 and oversaw its listing on the ASX in 2017. He was the face of Bingo Industries during a Four Corners investigation in 2017 that exposed the practice of building waste being trucked from NSW into Queensland. Tartak denied any wrongdoing.
Tartak left the role as CEO of Bingo Industries in September last year.
The matter is set to be heard in the Federal Court at a date yet to be fixed.
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