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Government Seeks Advice On Compensating Stock Agent

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, March 17 NZPA - A Northland stock and station agent who argued his business was affected by merger of Wrightson Ltd and Dalgety Ltd 24 years ago may yet get some compensation from government.

John Andrew Dickson, whose business went into liquidation in 1993, has petitioned Parliament three times requesting compensation for loss of profits as a result of alleged failures of the Commerce Commission, Examiner of Commercial Practices and the Secretary of Commerce to enforce conditions of the merger of Wrightson Dalgety, which was cleared by the commission in 1986.

In response to his latest petition the Ombudsman conducted an inquiry at the request of Parliament's commerce committee.

This found no causal connection between the loss suffered by Mr Dickson and any failure by the commission. The committee agreed with this but found that unhelpful communication by the commission contributed to Mr Dickson's loss of opportunity to pursue legal action against Wrightson and the Crown should accept moral responsibility for this.

It recommended the Government consider an ex gratia payment to Mr Dickson.

The Government today tabled its response to the committee report which said it will seek independent legal advice before deciding on the issue of an ex gratia payment. The Government will report back to Parliament by July 31 on its final decision.

The commission said in a statement today that it acknowledged the findings of the committee.

In 1992 the commission advised Mr Dickson that the enforceability of the conditions of the merger were "questionable" due to differences between the Commerce Act 1975, under which the merger application had been lodged and decided, and the new Commerce Act 1986.

The commission had investigated Mr Dickson's anti-competitive concerns under the 1986 Act.

"There were complex issues at play arising out of the transition from the previous legislation to the new Commerce Act in 1986. At the time, the commission felt that it acted appropriately in its dealings with Mr Dickson. However, in hindsight we accept that the commission could have communicated more clearly with Mr Dickson," said commission chief executive Nicholas Hill.

"Obviously in the 24 years since the matter at the heart of this issue arose, our systems and processes have changed, and we continue to make improvements aimed at transparency and certainty for the businesses we deal with," said Mr Hill.

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