The Business of Human Rights (Aus – policy)
In her Costello Lecture at Monash Law School last month, Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs argued that “It has become more important than ever that the corporations and businesses that are complicit in carrying out illegal government policies should themselves bear responsibility for breaching human rights laws.” Joanna Mather of the Financial Review speculates that the comments were a reference to Broadspectrum’s conduct in operating Australia’s offshore detention centres.
White Collar Crime at Whitegoods Company (Aus – criminal)
ASIC advises “Former Kleenmaid director Gary Collyer Armstrong today was sentenced to 7 years jail for his role in the collapse of the national whitegoods distributor.” The company, having been liquidated, was not charged.
Calls to Increase Sentences for White Collar Criminals (Aus – criminal)
“More than half of the white-collar criminals convicted during the past two years have escaped jail time, instead receiving non-custodial sentences or fines, outraging victims and alarming the corporate regulator…The meagre penalties have intensified political pressure for reform as the Senate prepares to probe the range of punishments available for white-collar crime and corporate wrongdoing, amid concerns that they are not tough enough to deter would-be offenders and protect the public. The Senate inquiry, announced late last month, has been welcomed by the Australian Securities & Investments Commission, whose chairman Greg Medcraft has warned that Australia is at risk of becoming a haven for white-collar crime.”
Sentences for Taking Endangered Plants and Polluting Waters Adjacent To The Great Barrier Reef (Aus – criminal)
The Queensland EPA prosecuted an unnamed, “reasonably large” corporation for offences relating to the discharge of 23,000 litres of diesel in waters adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef. The discharge would have been prevented had proper inspections of the pipeline been carried out. The Cairns Magistrates Court delivered a sentence of $20,000, without recording a conviction.
The Queensland EPA also prosecuted an unnamed “Central Queensland property development company” for clearing 36 endangered plants on property it owned. “The EHP investigation into the clearing revealed that the company’s CEO was aware of the endangered plants growing on the property, and of the requirement to obtain appropriate permits under the Act before any clearing on the property could occur.” The Rockhampton Magistrates’ Court delivered a sentence of $50,000, without recording a conviction.
Safety Scam results in $500K penalty (Aus – civil)
“The Federal Court has ordered that Safety Compliance Pty Ltd (Safety Compliance) pay penalties totalling $515,000 for making false or misleading representations to small businesses in connection with the supply of safety wall charts and first aid kits.
In her judgment, Justice Farrell stated that Safety Compliance’s business model was “a systematic and deliberate scam targeted at potentially large numbers of people in small businesses across Australia.””
Sexual Dysfunction Company Found To Have Acted Unconscionably Now Guilty of Contempt (Aus – criminal)
Despite the Federal Court ordering NRM Corporation Pty Ltd and NRM Trading Pty Ltd to cease making representations about the efficacy of its sexual dysfunction treatments, it continued to do so; the Federal Court found this to be a contempt of court.
Headaches for Reckitt Benckiser (Aus – civil)
Reckitt Benckiser (Australia) Pty Ltd engaged in conduct that was misleading or deceptive, or likely to mislead or deceive, when it marketed its Nurofen Specific Pain Range. The Federal Court made a range of orders, including corrective notices and advertising; view Annexes A and B to see the format of these.
Corporate Homicide Sentence for Sale of Deadly Gate (UK)
“Today, 7 December, Cheshire Gates and Automation Ltd was sentenced to a fine of £50,000 and a Publicity Order following the death of six year old Semelia Campbell, who tragically died after she was trapped in a faulty electric gate.
Semelia died on 28 June 2010 after becoming trapped in the gate at Maine Place in Manchester, the residential complex where she lived. The gate failed to detect Semelia as it closed and whilst her family, residents and the emergency services tried to free her, it was only once the gate motor was smashed that the gate gave way and she could be released.
…On 17 November 2015, Cheshire Gate and Automation Ltd pleaded guilty to the corporate manslaughter of Semelia. The company had automated that gate in an unsafe manner, leaving it without any proper limit on the force it exerted and unable to detect and pull back from any obstacles it encountered.”
£1.3million Fine For Companies Involved In Workplace Death (UK – criminal)
“Two companies have been fined a total of £1.3million following the death of a scaffolder who was just weeks away from his wedding day.
The court was told John Altoft, 29, from Scunthorpe was killed when he fell to his death after being struck by falling debris inside an industrial tower.”
University Fined For Unsafe Bomblet Deactivation Procedures (UK – criminal)
Who knew small bombs were called bomlets? “This case reinforces the fact that employers need to ensure all activities, especially those that are novel or only undertaken infrequently, have been properly assessed as to the associated hazards and risks, and that safe systems of work are in place to effectively control those risks. Cranfield University is properly recognised internationally for its explosives research and teaching, but in this particular case the standards for managing safety fell far short of what should have been in place.”
Record UK fine for the Health And Safety Executive Prosecution (UK – criminal)
“Oil and gas production company Total E&P UK Ltd has been fined a record £1.125 million at the Sheriff Court in Aberdeen after it admitted failures that led to largest release of gas on record from the Elgin Offshore platform.”
“This incident was foreseeable and entirely preventable. There were a number of failures on the part of Total, which contributed to the blowout. They failed to properly calculate the weight of kill fluid required; departed from the proposed well kill plan without considering relevant contingency arrangements and relied on an untested assumption that a sudden uncontrolled release at the wellhead could not occur. All of these contributed to them losing control of the well and the sudden uncontrolled release of gas.”
Sacks Of Rubble Catch The Eye Of Police… Who Call The Health And Safety Executive To Investigate (UK)
“A Coalville construction firm working in Leicester has been sentenced after workers were spotted throwing sacks of rubble from a building project opposite a police station.
Police officers called the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as debris was being launched out of a fifth floor window to a flat roof several metres below. They also saw unsafe working at open edges with no fall protection. … J A Ball Ltd was fined £13,000”
Tokyo Food Company’s Warehouse Worker Death (NZ – criminal)
“Daisuke Yokoyama was killed on March 9 this year after sustaining serious injuries to his torso when he became trapped between a cross beam on a racking unit and the console of the forklift he was operating at a Lower Hutt warehouse.
Tokyo Food Company Limited (TFL) was sentenced at the Lower Hutt District Court after pleading guilty to one charge under the Health and Safety in Employment Act for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of its employee, Mr Yokoyama. …
Mr Yokoyama’s family will receive $76,994 in court ordered reparation and Tokyo Food Company Limited has been fined $52,000.”
Asbestos Hazard Results In $45,000 Fine (NZ – criminal)
SafeWork NZ prosecuted Blakely Construction Ltd “for failing to properly identify and manage asbestos at a demolition site.” “This pattern of behaviour – finding asbestos but continuing to work around it when it needed to be dealt with by asbestos specialists – continued over more than a week. Throughout the demolition the excavator moved around the site, potentially spreading further asbestos contamination.”
New Investigation Guidelines (NZ)
This month, the Commerce Commission of New Zealand published Competition and Consumer Investigation Guidelines.
In Case Of Doubt: Pushing A Safety Officer Out The Door Is An Obstruction Of Justice (Canada – criminal)
This one’s not a corporate prosecution, but interesting enough to warrant a mention.
Another Yates Memo: Urging OHS Prosecutors To Get Creative (US)
Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates has issued another important corporate crime memo. This time, it’s on the topic of Prosecution of Worker Safety Violations, and she notes that there are only three OHS offences on the books – and they are only misdemeanours. That’s staggering information to me as an Australian practitioner; over here, OHS are some of the only corporate offences able to be prosecuted on indictment. So it’s a completely different landscape in the US. Yates urges OHS prosecutors to make prosecutions more meaningful by considering what non-OHS offences might also be charged. I don’t know what to feel about this: is it an unprincipled and ethically unacceptable approach to dealing with inadequate legislation, or is it a welcome message that regulators should hear more often: co-operate with your colleagues in other regulatory spheres, think about your litigation in a broader context.
Chem-Solve Inc Sentenced for Illegal Storage of Hazardous Waste (US)
“Chem-Solv Inc. (Chem-Solv), … pleaded guilty today to illegally storing hazardous waste at its facility … and to illegally transporting hazardous waste from that facility to another location … As a part of the plea agreement, Chem-Solv has agreed to pay a $1 million criminal fine for these violations, as well as an additional $250,000 to fund environmental community service projects. Chem-Solv has agreed to serve five years’ probation, during which time it must develop and implement an environmental compliance plan and be subjected to yearly independent environmental audits. In conjunction with the criminal settlement, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached a civil settlement with Chem-Solv that requires the company to pay a $250,000 penalty to settle alleged violations of improper hazardous waste storage at Chem-Solv’s Roanoke facility.”
Medical Kickbacks Case Settled for $3M (US)
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced today that Coloplast Corp., a manufacturer of ostomy and continence care products, and Liberator Medical Supply, Inc., a medical products supplier, have agreed to pay $3,160,000 and $500,000, respectively, to resolve allegations that Coloplast paid unlawful kickbacks to several medical suppliers, including Liberator, to induce them to conduct promotional campaigns designed to refer individual users to Coloplast products.”
Volkswagon, Aldi and Porsche Litigation Commences (USA)
The United States of America has commenced civil litigation against VW in relation to its alleged use of “cheat devices” in cars.
International Compliance and Enforcement Conference in Singapore (International)
The Australasian Environmental Law Enforcement and Regulators Network (AELERT), recently held its Second International Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Conference in Singapore.