CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A federal judge tripled a $35 million jury verdict against the owners of a warehouse and distribution company accused of overcharging Cargill.
Court documents show Judge Frank Whitney entered a judgment of $105,531,807 against Jennifer Maier, owner and president of Charlotte, North Carolina-based WDS Inc., and Brian Ewert, owner and vice president of WDS, under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
On Jan. 23, a jury found Maier, Ewert and WDS had misrepresented the margin charged on products WDS supplied to Cargill, falsified business records and engaged in commercial bribery, court documents state. The jury awarded Cargill $35,177,269 in damages.
Cargill filed the lawsuit in December 2016. Court documents state that Cargill contracted with WDS for warehousing and distribution of film, wrap, trays, spices and other products manufactured or distributed by third-party vendors.
Under the terms of the contract between the companies, WDS was to charge Cargill only the amount WDS itself paid its direct vendors plus a specified percentage of the direct vendor price. The integrity of the terms depended upon WDS, Maier and Ewert correctly reporting the direct vendor price and the percentage of the direct vendor price, or margin.
Cargill alleged that Maier and Ewert caused WDS to overcharge Cargill “…in many cases marking up products several times the permitted fixed margin and did so numerous times over a period of many years,” according to court documents.
Cargill also accused Maier and Ewert of actively concealing the nature of the markups and the charges. And when Cargill questioned the charges, Maier and Ewert took additional steps to conceal the actual nature of the overcharges, including falsification of vendor invoices.
The case is Cargill, Incorporated v. WDS, Inc. et al, No. 3:16-cv-0048, in the US District Court of North Carolina Charlotte Division.