Billionaire William Koch, after winning a $379,000 verdict against a consigner who sold him 24 counterfeit bottles of wine from France’s Bordeaux region, was awarded $12 million in punitive damages by the same jury today.
The federal jury in Manhattan yesterday found against the consigner, Eric Greenberg, concluding he made fraudulent representations about the authenticity and provenance of the wine, including many purported grand crus that cost Koch tens of thousands of dollars. Yesterday’s award comprised the amount Koch paid for the wine at a 2005 auction and $1,000 in compensatory damages for each bottle.
The jury of six men and two women, who heard Koch and Greenberg testify during the three-week trial, returned to court today to consider punitive damages. Koch, the brother of conservative Tea Party funders David Koch and Charles Koch, is the founder of West Palm Beach, Florida-based Oxbow Carbon & Minerals LLC.
Koch sued Greenberg, the founder and chairman emeritus of Scient Corp., alleging he defrauded him and had falsely advertised the authenticity and quality of the wines. Koch said in his 2007 complaint that Greenberg falsely promoted the collection as “the Best of the Best,” claiming that some dated back to the Belle Epoque.
The suit was one of several filed by Koch against wine consigners and auction houses that he says sold counterfeit wine. An earlier lawsuit against New York-based Zachys Wine & Liquor Inc., where he’d bought the wine, was settled for an unspecified amount.
Arthur Shartsis, a lawyer for Greenberg, told jurors during the trial that his client hadn’t misrepresented the wines and had instead relied upon wine experts at Zachys to inspect and authenticate his bottles for the sale. Shartsis said that the auction catalog also included a provision that the wines were sold “as-is” and said Koch hadn’t bothered to inspect the bottles before the sale or make any inquiries.
The case is Koch v. Greenberg, 07-cv-09600, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).