The Pistoriuses refuse to stay out of the media (Ag-)limelight
Starting in late 2009, the South African Competition Commission had suspected cartel activity in the Agricultural Lime (“AgLime”) industry. Notably, one of the participants in the alleged price-fixing scheme was the Hendrik Pistorius Trust and its Pistorius-family trustee members, all of whom are respondents (defendants) in the action now referred by the CompComm to the S.A. Competition Tribunal (official referral document here).
The connection of this antitrust case with now-infamous Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius is obviously only a family link (based on some quick research, it seems as though one of Oscar’s cousins is involved, namely Arnoldus Pistorius, the son of yet another respondent, Leo Pistorius who is apparently known as an elephant hunter).
It is interesting to note that the Commission requests a 10% penalty, however, they do not explicitly state that it is for the period of the contravention (page 10).
On 16 January 2015, the South African Competition Commission filed a complaint against Hendrik Wilhelm Carl Pistorius N.O., Leo Constantin Pistorius N.O., Hermine Pistorius N.O., Arnoldus Kurt Pistorius, Kalkor (Pty) Ltd, CHL Taljaard & Son (Pty) Ltd, PBD Boerdedienste (Pty) Ltd, Grasland Ondernemings (Pty) Ltd and Fertiliser Society of South Africa.
The Commission alleges that the respondents were engaged in a prohibited practice from 1995 until 2008, by agreeing or entering into a concerted practice to fix the commissions payable by each of them to fertiliser companies who employ agents to market, sell and distribute agricultural lime, which is crushed / pulverised limestone or dolomite used for soil treatment in order to reduce the acidity of the soil. This alleged practice is in contravention of section 4(1)(b)(i) of the South African Competition Act, which provides the following:
“An agreement between, or concerted practice by, firms, or a decision by an association of firms, is prohibited if it is between parties in a horizontal relationship and if –
(a) it has the effect of substantially preventing, or lessening, competition in a market, unless a party to the agreement, concerted practice, or decision can prove that any technological, efficiency or other pro-competitive gain resulting from it outweighs that effect; or
(b) it involves any of the following restrictive horizontal practices:
(i) directly or indirectly fixing a purchase or selling price or any other trading condition;
(ii) dividing markets by allocating customers, suppliers, territories, or specific types of goods or services; or
(iii) collusive tendering.”