Recently, a federal jury in New York awarded $12 million in punitive damages to U.S. billionaire William Koch in his dispute over the alleged misrepresentation of 24 bottles of wine he bought at an auction. This man is one of the infamous Koch brothers who are very much anti-consumer, against all government regulation, and who have led the tort-reform movement in the U.S. The founder of Oxbow Group energy company, William Koch had accused tech entrepreneur Eric Greenberg of knowingly selling him counterfeit bottles of wine at a 2005 Zachys auction. Koch said after his win: “There’s been a huge code of silence in this industry. My purpose is to shine a bright light on it.”
Koch filed the federal lawsuit in 2007, accusing Greenberg, the San Francisco-based founder of several Internet companies, of fraud and misrepresentation. He sought $320,000, the amount he paid for the 24 bottles, as compensation damages. He also asked for – of all things – punitive damages. The jury returned with a compensatory verdict of $379,000, which included the amount he spent on the wine and a little extra for good measure. Later the same panel awarded $12 million in punitive damages. After the verdict, Koch announced that he was “out of sight, over the moon” over the damages award.
William Koch is the brother of Charles and David Koch, the major supporters and funders of the Tea Party in the U.S. In addition to his jury verdict, William Koch had settled a separate lawsuit with the auction house in 2011, details of which were kept confidential.
Initially, I was shocked to learn about the filling of a lawsuit by one of the Koch brothers – and even more shocked to learn he demanded punitive damages. This is a man who, along with his brothers, believes all consumer lawsuits are frivolous and that asking for punitive damages is a “sin.” So much for tort-reform for the Koch brothers. But do you believe this win will make the brothers more compassionate for other victims – including those who can’t pay $20,000 for a bottle of wine – of corporate fraud?
Source: Associated Press
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