Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers vows to appeal a trial jury's nearly $3-million judgment against the company for undermining online rival IronPlanet Inc.
On Feb. 4, a Jackson County, Iowa, jury ordered Ritchie Bros. to pay $2,857,539, including $1.5 million in punitive damages, for breach of contract and intentional interference.
"We are disappointed with the jury's verdict," says Ritchie Bros. CEO Peter Blake. "We are continuing to defend this case vigorously. … We stand by our position that—at all times—we acted fairly and appropriately."
At issue is IronPlanet's 2011 contract with Scheckel Construction Inc., a Bellevue, Iowa-based roadbuilder that disposed of 100 pieces of machinery upon company founder Richard J. Scheckel's retirement. The inventory included 23 motor scrapers, 18 crawler tractors and 16 dump trucks, among other pieces.
Pleasanton, Calif.-based IronPlanet cinched the listing with a 5.5% commission, leaving Ritchie Bros. personnel "livid," court papers say. Competition intensified prior to the May 2011 auction, triggering Ritchie Bros. to increase sale guarantees.
Scheckel switched auctioneers after Ritchie Bros. increased its offer by over $1.8 million and demanded that IronPlanet stop promoting the sale or match Ritchie Bros.' guarantee. IronPlanet argued that under the terms of the sale, it was due a 25% cancellation fee.
"We are very pleased with the jury's decision and [its] recognition of the strong evidence regarding Ritchie Bros.' intentions to harm IronPlanet," says IronPlanet CEO Greg Owens.