Bloomberg News

Billionaire Koch Seeks Dismissal of Imprisonment Lawsuit

January 17, 2013

Billionaire William Koch asked a judge to dismiss a former employee’s lawsuit alleging he was held captive, saying the man is “disgruntled” over his “corporate wrongdoing” and was “free at all times to leave.”

Kirby Martensen, a former Oxbow Carbon & Minerals Inc. senior vice president, claimed in a lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco in October that he was held captive for almost two days by Koch after because of misgivings about a plan to avoid U.S. taxes on $200 million in profit. Martensen said in his complaint that he was detained as part of an attempt to intimidate him.

Martensen doesn’t allege that he confined by physical force or describe being held against his will, and he doesn’t assert facts that the people he said imprisoned him were Koch’s agents, Koch’s lawyer said in yesterday’s filing.

“Rather, the allegations make clear that Martensen is a disgruntled former employee of the Oxbow companies who may have been embarrassed and upset that his corporate wrongdoing was discovered, but who was free at all times to leave,” according to the filing.

Martensen alleged in his lawsuit that he was falsely imprisoned by Koch’s agents and interrogated at a remote Colorado estate.

Koch, who Bloomberg Billionaires Index estimates is worth $3.7 billion, is the brother of conservative Tea Party funders David Koch and Charles Koch.

John Scott, Martensen’s attorney, declined to comment on the filing.

Bear Ranch

Martensen, promoted last year to senior vice president, said he was lured to the billionaire’s Bear Ranch near Aspen in March on false pretenses and questioned about anonymous allegations of wrongdoing made against him tied to a kickback scheme. The company sued him over the claims in Florida state court on March 22, while he was allegedly being held against his will in Colorado.

“In the spring of 2011, Oxbow initiated a yearlong investigation culminating in the dismissal of several executives and a civil complaint being filed last March,” Oxbow said in a statement on its website. “Martensen states in a lawsuit that we investigated him for participating in a wide-ranging scheme to defraud, accepting bribes and diverting business from our company. He is right. We absolutely investigated Martensen.”

In the Oxbow lawsuit filed in Palm Beach County, the company alleged Martensen breached his duty to the firm.

“In or before March 2009,” Martensen and other former executives of Oxbow units participated in a “wide-ranging scheme to systematically misappropriate revenues and business opportunities” from the company, Oxbow said.

Martensen accepted illegal bribes, kickbacks and other payments from Oxbow competitors and “secretly shared in the payments, revenues and profits derived by plaintiffs’ competitors,” Oxbow alleged in the complaint.

The case is Martensen v. Koch. 12-05257, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

To contact the reporter on this story: Karen Gullo in San Francisco at kgullo@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net


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