Billionaire businessman William Koch is facing a lawsuit from a former senior executive of his Oxbow energy company, who alleges that he was held captive and interrogated because of his concerns regarding a plan to avoid taxes on $200 million in profits.
The employee in question is Kirby Martensen, former Senior Vice President of Oxbow, an energy development holding company based in West Palm Beach, Florida.
In 2011, Martensen was promoted to the position of senior vice president of Oxbow Carbon & Minerals International, at which time he moved to Singapore with his family. He held the position until March of 2012, when he was fired.
According to the claim filed in San Francisco, “Martensen understood that the goal of this assignment was to help legitimize OCM’s Bahamian shell company,” and by moving it to Asia, evade paying taxes on profits in excess of $200 million.
The claim states that William Koch was informed of an anonymous letter alleging that “Martensen and another employee, Larry Black, had been engaging in theft, breaches of fiduciary duty, fraud, and self-dealing against the Oxbow companies.”
Upon being notified of the letter, Koch launched an investigation that reviewed thousands of corporate documents, as well as emails, memos, and other corporate communications.
“Based on this surreptitious review of plaintiff’s emails and voice communications, Koch learned that Martensen and others expressed concern of the legality of what they were doing on behalf of Oxbow and their distrust of upper management,” the claim states. “As a result, William Koch promoted and implemented a plan to intimidate and discredit plaintiff for the purpose of chilling his speech and damaging his credibility.”
Martensen alleges he was lured under “false pretenses” to Koch’s property in Bear Ranch, near Aspen—a remote, closed-off location with no cellphone reception. While there, Koch offered Martensen and the other guests a tour of his 19th century Wild West ghost town simulacrum. After being treated to a helicopter tour of the ranch, Martensen claims he was escorted into a small room and interrogated for several hours, and was, among other things, “accused of participating in a wide-ranging scheme to defraud Oxbow and Koch of millions of dollars, accepting bribes from competitors and ‘diverting freight to a known competitor.’”
After the interrogation, Martensen says, he was taken to a cabin nearby, where he was told that a sheriff would be making sure he did not escape; eventually he he was escorted, against his will, to Denver (rather than Aspen, where he had a flight to San Francisco) and placed in a private jet to Oakland, California, with an escort Martensen believed to be armed.
William Koch, estimated to be worth $4 billion, is the brother of David and Charles Koch, the billionaire industrialists behind the Tea Party movement. He too has been heavily involved in politics, donating $3 million to the pro-Romney Super PAC Restore Our Future.