The Australian Competition and Consumer Authority announced yesterday that it had charged billionaire cardboard mogul Richard Pratt with a breach of the Trade Practices Act by providing false or misleading evidence to an ACCC hearing in 2005.
While the four charges carry a maximum penalty of four years’ prison, don’t hold your breath. Look at the precedents: despite what appeared to be a clear cut case of insider trading, millionaire comedian Steve Vizard, was able to plead guilty to civil offences. A few weeks ago, the Commonwealth DPP allowed former Gribbles CEO Wallace Cameron to escape with a puny $16,000 fine after more than 35 charges, including failing to disclose a substantial shareholding and misleading or hindering an ASIC investigation.
Pratt should be reassured. Given his age, 74, and the fact that white collar crime seems to inevitably bring nothing more than a limp lettuce wrist-slapping, the criminal charges would seem to be aimed more at damaging his reputation rather than depriving him of his liberty.