Awards and citations:

1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Fakes and fine wine trade under the spotlight as Bill Koch wins

Bill Koch's victory in his case (see below) against Eric Greenberg for knowingly selling counterfeit wine is certain to shine the spotlight on the fine wine trade not only in the US but in other major centres like the UK. The spotlight will surely continue to shine for some time as there is still Koch's case against Acker, Merrall & Condit as well as one against Rudy Kurniawan that now can't proceed until Kurniawan's criminal fraud trial, due to start on 9th September, is over.  

Koch has been awarded compensatory damages of $375,000 and $12 million in punitive damages. The trial judge has yet to rule on Koch's legal costs but Greenberg has already been handed a big bill but his lawyer has said he will appeal

Inevitably there will be questions over how extensive are counterfeit operations in the fine wine trade. How careful are merchants in the US, UK and elsewhere in checking the provenance of stock offered to them for sale. Certainly the merchant in Buckinghamshire who bought in December 2011 six bottles of 2007 Ausone that turned out to be stolen from a dealer in Luxembourg appeared not to checked properly the provenance of what they were buying. The Luxembourg merchant had been fooled by a fraudster, who falsely claimed to be the agent for Manchester City star Yaya Toure.   

‘In December a wine merchant in Buckinghamshire bought six bottles of 2007 Ausone from a private individual who brought up the six bottles on a train from London. “He was a hip black guy – between 20 and 30,” said a spokesman for the company. “He said he had a number of footballer friends. The Ausone belonged to a footballer who didn’t want the wine but wanted the money instead.”’

Was this apparently casual approach to establishing provenance as well as title an isolated incident or common practice within the fine wine trade?

(Full story here and here.)    

Are there other practices, such as the 'borrowing' of wines from client reserves, that disadvantage customers that should be stamped out? 

Koch's victory from Wine Spectator
'Jury Awards Bill Koch $12 Million in Counterfeit Wine Lawsuit
Court finds that collector Eric Greenberg defrauded Florida billionaire at wine auction
Peter Hellman, Mitch Frank
Posted: April 12, 2013

Seven years into his unrelenting, cost-be-damned campaign to clean up the rare wine business, Bill Koch scored a big victory—a $12 million victory. A jury has found in the Florida energy executive's favor on all counts in his lawsuit against fellow wine collector Eric Greenberg. Koch accused California Internet entrepreneur Greenberg of fraud, making materially misleading representations and false advertising. Koch spent $3.7 million at a Zachys auction of 17,000 bottles from Greenberg's cellar in October 2005, and alleged that 24 of the bottles he bought were fakes and that Greenberg knew it.'
Read the rest in the Wine Spectator here.

See also several recent comments from Don Cornwell on WineBeserkers here


vignedeconfiance said...

Unfortunately, this court award couldn't have been won by a more disgustingly (and ostentatiously) wealthy individual. The Koch Bros. are the bane of American politics & society! Having said that, the fake-wine charlatan did "eat the hot justice" he deserved.

Jim Budd said...

That is what I hear but it remains an important victory to help reduce counterfeiting.

Strokey beard Mark said...

What is it that you set to catch a thief?!