Race becomes issue at competition-law conference in South Africa
According to several reports, the issue of race came to the fore during a discussion of illegal cartel conduct in South Africa at a recently held plaintiffs’ firm symposium (organised by Hausfeld LLP and Abrahams Kiewitz). Quoting from Amanda Visser’s BDLive article entitled “Cartels blamed on white men in dark suits” (23 Oct. 2013):
The Black Business Council has come out against cartels in South Africa, with CEO Xolani Qubeka, blaming the practice on “highly educated white male executives in dark suits”.
Mr Qubeka’s comments at a symposium on cartel collusion came after the recent outcry over collusion and cartel activities in the construction industry.
… Mr Qubeka said the Black Business Council aims not only to rid the country of collusive behaviour, but also to instigate criminal cases against the key architects, masquerading as corporate managers, who are committing fraud.
“Consumers in South Africa cannot continue to be abused by highly educated white male executives in dark suits who lock themselves in dark rooms plotting how they can maximise their wealth through self-serving fraudulent schemes against the entire nation,” he said.
Sounds like the infamous old saying about equating cartels to “men in smoke-filled back rooms” — only with more incendiary overtones… Ironically, the speaker Mr. Qubeka (who did not complete high school and is an outspoken critic of the S.A. Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) agenda, according to a May 2013 Sunday Times profile and other articles) used to be a Director of South African telecommunications giant MTN — a corporation that has had its own fair share of competition-based complaints and investigations, as we have reported on this blog.
We observe that the conference-sponsoring Hausfeld firm has historically been perceived as opposing racism and, indeed, has helped pursue claims (including pro bono matters) on behalf of groups suffering from discrimination, such as Holocaust survivors. The firm is currently involved in more traditional plaintiff litigation matters in South Africa, including several miners’ class-action lawsuits against their employers, AngloGold Ashanti Limited (formerly Anglo American), Harmony Gold Mining Company Limited, and Goldfields Limited (based on diseases allegedly contracted by the class members). The firm is also involved, again jointly with Abrahams’, in the bread price-fixing class action in South Africa.