-By Bernard Vaughan
April 12, 2013- A federal jury in New York on Friday 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 auction.
Koch, 72, said he may use the proceeds to establish a fund to confront auction fraud and wine fraud.
The founder of Oxbow Group energy company, Koch had accused tech entrepreneur Eric Greenberg of knowingly selling him counterfeit bottles of wine at a 2005 Zachys auction.
"There's been a huge code of silence in this industry," Koch said after the jury decided on the damages in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. "My purpose is to shine a bright light on it."
Koch filed a federal lawsuit in 2007, accusing Greenberg, the San Francisco-based founder of several Internet companies, of fraud and misrepresentation and seeking $320,000, the amount he paid for the 24 bottles.
The jury on Thursday evening returned with a verdict that Koch should be compensated for the amount he spent on the wine, and on Friday the panel decided on the $12 million in punitive damages.
Koch shook hands with jurors and thanked them as they left the courtroom, saying he was "out of sight, over the moon" over the damages award.
Greenberg had denied the charges, saying any forgeries from his wine cellar got to the auction house by mistake. In closing arguments on Thursday, his attorney Arthur Shartsis said his client did not knowingly sell fakes.
"Clearly, the verdict is a disappointment because I believed all the consigned wine to be authentic," Greenberg said in a statement after the verdict.