Judge Cuts Billionaire Koch’s $12M Award in Fake Wine Case to $1M

Billionaire William Koch’s $ 12 million damages award in a lawsuit accusing a fellow wine collector of selling counterfeit Bordeaux was decreased by a U.S. judge to a tiny much less than $ 1 million.

The punitive damages a jury awarded Koch against Eric Greenberg above the sale of 24 bottles of wine have been “excessive,” U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken mentioned in a ruling Monday in Manhattan federal court.

“While the flagrancy of Greenberg’s fraud merits some award of punitive damages, the harm he triggered is much less compelling,” Oetken mentioned in the choice, which otherwise upheld the jury’s findings. “This harm was economic in nature and none of its targets — neither Koch nor other possible buyers at auction — have been financially vulnerable.”

Koch was awarded about $ 379,000 in compensatory damages plus punitive damages by a jury in April 2013 in excess of allegations that consignor Greenberg misled auction property Zachys Wine Auctions Inc. and customers about the authenticity of purported uncommon vintages, which includes one particular allegedly dating to 1864.

The judge minimize the total damages to a tiny significantly less than $ one million, plus interest. He denied Koch’s request for more than $ 7.8 million in attorneys charges, saying that they “bore no relationship to the volume of real damages at problem.”

6 Many years

A total of 36 attorneys had been concerned in a situation that was litigated more than a time period of 6 years, the judge said, referencing the court docket.

Brad Goldstein, a spokesman for Koch, mentioned his client is pleased with the ruling.

“Our objective from the start off was never ever about the funds, it was constantly to shine a bright light on the fraud that has gone undetected,” he explained in a mobile phone interview.

The court found “Eric Greenberg’s conduct was reprehensible, that he was a fraudster,” Goldstein mentioned “Whether it’a dollar or regardless of whether it is in excess of a million bucks, that’s going to adhere to him for the rest of his daily life.”

David C. Frederick, a lawyer for Greenberg, stated in an e- mail that “we’re gratified by the court’s ruling” to reduce damages and reject the declare for attorney’s charges.

Belle Epoque

Koch filed suit in 2007 alleging Greenberg, founder and chairman emeritus of Scient Corp., defrauded him when he falsely promoted his wine collection as “the Very best of the Best,” claiming that some bottles dated to the Belle Epoque, a era that preceded World War I.

The brother of conservative Tea Get together founders David Koch and Charles Koch, Koch is the founder of West Palm Seaside, Florida-based Oxbow Carbon & Minerals LLC.

The suit was one particular of a number of filed by Koch against wine consignors and auction homes that he mentioned offered counterfeit wine.

Wines at issue in the Greenberg case included a purported 1864 Chateau Latour bottle, which Koch bought for $ 14,160, and 2 1950 Chateau Petrus magnums he bought for $ twenty,060 each and every.

The case is Koch v. Greenberg, 07-cv-09600, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

–With assistance from Patricia Hurtado in Federal Court in Manhattan.

Copyright 2014 Bloomberg.

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