The April finding and BlueScope’s court action come as the US gave BlueScope a breather on fresh tariffs brought in by the Trump Administration to safeguard American producers as part of its “trade war”.
The exact volume and value of the steel BlueScope sold over that 18 month period is unclear, according to documents relating to the US investigation. BlueScope declined to comment on the legal action when contacted by the Age and Herald.
The legal action has not been directly diclosed to shareholders. But BlueScope noted in its 2019, 2018 and 2017 annual reports that it had potential contingent liabilities from various court cases, none of which were expected to be material financially.
The US Department of Commerce slapped BlueScope with the additional duty after its investigation found it had “significantly impeded the investigation” into its steel imports by handing over data in a way that meant it was unable to compare prices of its home sales with its overseas exports.
The company was also accused of making “unsolicited and unexplained changes” to some of the datasets it provided to the investigation.
“BlueScope refused to comply with our reporting instructions, and failed to provide a sufficient explanation for the difference,” the department said in its report.
In the court documents filed last week, BlueScope alleges the findings are incorrect.
“Beyond being not supported by substantial evidence and other otherwise in accordance with law, Commerce’s determination is particularly egregious,” BlueScope told the court.
The steelmaker added that it was not its competitors who petitioned for the review, but rather itself following an earlier ruling by the department to place anti-dumping (AD) duties on imports from seven countries, including Australia.
At the time, the department of Commerce placed a rate of duty 29.37 per cent on BlueScope’s imports.
“Why would BlueScope request an AD review if they were not going to cooperate fully?” BlueScope told the court. Describing the finding by the Department of Commerce as “meritless”, BlueScope claimed it had had submitted data on hundreds of thousands transactions to the investigation.
BlueScope also argued that its sales were not into the market but rather a case of BlueScope and its US entities making back-to-back transactions .
BlueScope explained that its US division’s sales of subject merchandise were to an affiliated company, BSA, which in turn resold the product in a back-to-back transaction to another affiliated company, Steelscape.
Later, Steelscape further processed the subject merchandise prior to the first sale to an unrelated customer.”No Australian BlueScope entity sold subject merchandise to an unrelated party in the United States,” it said.
BlueScope is separately being sued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission over alleged cartel conduct.
Sarah Danckert is a business reporter.