Weyerhaeuser hit with $27 million verdict

Weyerhaeuser has been ordered to pay $27.9 million for unlawfully controlling the supply of alder logs in order to drive smaller competitors out of business. A Portland, Ore., jury handed down the verdict in the class action case on April 28. Under federal antitrust laws, the amount of the award will be tripled.

Weyerhaeuser immediately vowed to appeal the verdict. In a prepared statement, the company’s senior vp and general counsel Sandy McDade said: “We are confident [the verdict] will be reversed on appeal because last year the U.S. Supreme Court decided in our favor a case presenting virtually identical issues. We fully expect that the Court of Appeals will apply that precedent.”

Grown only in western Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, alder is a hardwood used primarily in furniture-making. Smaller alder mills have accused Weyerhaeuser of overpaying for the logs in order to raise the market price.

Weyerhaeuser did settle two earlier lawsuits in 2004 alleging antitrust actions in the alder market. The forest products company agreed to pay $14 million and $34.5 million to several hardwood lumber mills, but admitted no liability as part of the settlements.

Weyerhaeuser has vigorously fought subsequent lawsuits based on the same charges, however. In the U.S. Supreme Court decision, justices ruled 9 to 0 to overturn a $79 million award granted by a different Oregon jury.