Woolworths chief Brad Banducci threatened with jail time during Senate hearing

Outgoing Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci has been warned he could be held in contempt of the Senate and face potential jail time after he repeatedly refused to answer questions about a key measure of the supermarket’s profitability.

During Tuesday’s Senate hearings into supermarket prices, Greens senator and inquiry chair Nick McKim pressed Banducci about Woolworths’ return on equity – the figure used to measure a company’s financial performance and its ability to generate returns for shareholders – and accused him of “PR spin” and “bullshitting [his] way through this committee”.

Woolworths Group chief executive Brad Banducci could not shake off questions about return on equity.Credit: Dion Georgopoulos

Banducci refused to address the metric across several hours and attempted to draw attention instead to the company’s return on investment, which infuriated McKim, who interrupted the chief executive several times and accused him of “cherry-picking” data points.

“I feel compelled [to say] that it is open to the Senate to hold a witness in contempt when they refuse to answer a legitimate question,” McKim said.

“This is important, Mr Banducci. This is very important because it is open to the Senate to hold you in contempt, and that carries potential sanctions including up to six months’ imprisonment for you.”


After several more attempts to explain that the supermarket did not focus on the metric, Banducci eventually conceded he didn’t know the answer and would take the question on notice.

“We make a reasonable profit, both a 10 per cent return on funds employed after tax and also a 10 per cent total shareholder return over the last five years. And as I said earlier, much of this goes back to Australian households in the form of superannuation and dividends,” Banducci told the inquiry.

Woolworths’ average return on equity for the past five years is 25.3 per cent, according to data from Factset. Coles’ is 33.9 per cent.

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  • Source of information and images “brisbanetimes”

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