The High Court yesterday dismissed an action alleging price fixing against Cement Roadstone Holdings (CRH), Readymix and other building materials suppliers, on the grounds of delay.
Journalist Michael Clifford
reported that the case was initiated in 1996 by Sligo company Framus Ltd and two other companies who claimed they were forced out of business between 1993 and 1994 because of an alleged cartel in the industry.
Sligoman and director of Framus Ltd, Seamus Maye, one of the plaintiffs had for years pursued the case alone against CRH and the other defendants until he was bolstered by another businessman caught in a similar scenario with the concrete giant and is proceeding in tandem with his action.
Peter Goode, MD of Goode Concrete Goode and his family corroborate the action Maye has outlined. The High Court has heard affidavits from Goode’s father Tom which detail specific 'cartel' meetings and how the members of the alleged 'cartel' conducted their affairs.
The plaintiffs, Maye and Goode, allege the company has been at the centre of operating a price-fixing cartel in the concrete industry. If their allegations have any substance, then it would mean the exchequer was defrauded out of hundreds of millions of euro. The State is the biggest purchaser of concrete in Ireland.Artificially Inflated
Through the years of the building boom in particular, the supply of cement and concrete products was a lucrative business. If it ever came to light that price fixing through cartels kept the price artificially inflated, then a major class-action would most likely be instigated from several quarters.
However yesterday the defendants have succeeded in having the claim thrown out due to inordinate and inexcusable delay.
Mr Justice John Cooke has found the non-availablity of key witnesses and the difficulties of others to recall events from 20 years ago would cause serious prejudice to the defendants.
Following the ruling a shocked Mr Maye told SligoToday.ie
. "We are disappointed but in no way surprised. The issues facing our family and the many other families in similar situations have now crystallised. We intend to respond definitively. The level of State complicity with CRH over the past four decades is truly mind boggling. We will leave no stone unturned in uncovering the truth behind CRH and the Irish State."
When asked what course of action he now intended to take Mr Maye said, "We will now sit down with our legal team and decide however I'm determined to take this to the Supreme Court and if necessary on to Europe."Uncompetitive And Illegal Practices
CRH is one of the State’s most successful companies. It operates in over 30 countries. Yet, at home, CRH has, for decades, been the focus of accusations of uncompetitive and illegal practices, of fixing prices, and overseeing cartels. If any of these allegations were to be proved in a court of law, it would vindicate Maye and Goode in their belief that they were both separately driven out of business because they refused to play ball in an illegal operation.
Maye continues to state that 'anybody who didn’t play ball with CRH would find themselves out of business, just as he has.'
The plaintiffs intend to issue a full statement shortly.Background from SligoToday 11/4/12
Seamus Maye is a Sligo-based businessman. His family were in the building materials business going back to the 1950s, but eventually sold up in 1994. Maye claims the sale was forced upon him because he wouldn’t play ball with what he says was a price-fixing cartel.
His case, taken through the family company Framus, includes a whole host of allegations, detailing specific projects in which he claims his company fell victim to the workings of a cartel. The projects include work in Croke Park, Dublin Airport, Wood Quay, and the Guinness brewery. In each case, he claims he agreed prices with the client only to be undercut by a price that was below cost. He claims that in a number of cases, some of the companies in the cartel didn’t price jobs, because there was an agreement to split up the work. Again, details of specific jobs are given.
As his business was coming under increasing pressure to sell out, Maye took to wearing a hidden microphone to tape conversations he had with various representatives of CRH subsidiaries and other companies
The High Court has been told of one meeting in March 1993 between Seamus Maye and Sean Quinn, who was a major player in the cement industry. According to Maye, Quinn told him other competitors in Galway had told Quinn "they would hang Maye out to dry".
In June 1993, in a meeting with a representative of CRH subsidiary, Irish Cement, Maye taped the meeting. He claims he told a Mr O’Loughlen that he wanted his own business. The court heard that O’Loughlen replied: "That’s no solution to it either, Seamus… The fight will just go on and on and obviously there is bad blood on both sides and that’s not good for anybody. I mean, I’ve seen these things in places like Tipperary and Galway and its going on in the West now with Harrington — everybody loses their [expletive] and at the end of the day, the commercial reality has to take over with everybody and a deal has to be struck somewhere along the line."