Two directors of construction firms have been warned they will lose their restricted vehicle licences if they repeat the anti-competitive conduct that landed them with a £1.5m fine.
Maurice Sherling and Graham Hudson were investigated by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in 2020 and fined the seven-figure sum after it found they had formed a cartel in the construction industry while directors of a company called International Metal Industries. They were also disqualified from acting as directors.
However, a High Court order the following year allowed both men to continue acting as directors of related businesses Associated Lead Mills and Envirowales, but only under strict conditions. These included the continuation of other, named, people as directors and regular searches of the companies’ emails, texts and phone call records.
Traffic commissioner (TC) Nick Denton said none of this was notified to the Office of the Traffic Commissioner until more than a year later and, given it was a matter that could affect the fitness of the two companies, he called them to a Cambridge public inquiry (PI).
In his written decision, the TC also said: “Worryingly, the CMA noted in its report that the two directors’ accounts of their actions lacked credibility because they were contradicted by the documentary evidence or were internally inconsistent.”
The directors’ barrister Toby Sasse said the fine had almost been paid off and the conditions imposed by the court order had all been complied with. He also pointed out that the offence was not related to any road transport issue or roadworthiness of vehicles.
TC Denton said: “There is no doubt in my mind that the conduct of Maurice Sherling and of Graham Hudson has been reprehensible, both in the original anti-competitive behaviour which involved price-fixing activity with another company in the same industry, and in the ‘not credible’ accounts which they both subsequently gave to the CMA.”
However, he also said he would not make a finding of unfitness, which would prevent them from acting as the court had decided they could.
“Findings of anti-competitive behaviour, a £1.5m fine and disqualifications from being directors are, taken together, of a similar degree of seriousness to a conviction,” he said.