January 12, 2016
Ms. Mayer’s recent book, like much of her reporting over the last several years on the Koch family and Koch Industries, relies on questionable sourcing and a misrepresentation of the facts in order to further a partisan, agenda-driven storyline that is often grossly inaccurate.
While there are many inaccurate claims and assertions throughout her book, two sensationalist allegations in particular are especially outrageous and must be addressed.
1. Ms. Mayer falsely implies that Fred Koch was working to aid and abet Germany’s tyrannical regime during World War II, and further implies that two of his sons, Charles and David Koch could somehow share these fictional sympathies.
Context is important in this allegation. Winkler-Koch’s contract with Foreign Oil Co. of Boston, involving work on a Hamburg refinery, was signed on Sept. 8, 1933, nearly six years before Germany invaded Poland. That refinery became operational March 23, 1935, before Charles or David were even born. Many iconic U.S companies were conducting business in Germany during that same period, including Coca-Cola, General Motors, Ford and IBM. This was Winkler-Koch’s one and only project in Germany. When it became clear that Hitler’s government was a tyrannical regime, Mr. Koch ceased doing business there. (Meanwhile, several of those other companies continued working with Germany during World War II.) Fred Koch was a patriotic American who advocated strongly and repeatedly for the bombing and defeat of the Axis during World War II. In fact, in the same letter from Fred Koch to Charles Francis de Ganahl quoted by Ms. Mayer, Fred Koch wrote about the importance of beating Germany a second time (the first having been WWI).
2. Ms. Mayer also describes a sealed deposition that charges Charles and David Koch with participating in a “vicious blackmail attempt” against their eldest brother Frederick, “who they believed was gay,” in order to get him “to relinquish his claim to a share of the family company, or else they threatened to expose his private life to their father.”
This false accusation is part of a series of attacks and claims from litigation filed in the 1980s. These specific allegations were found to be untrue, as were other allegations made during this case that the court and a jury ultimately found to be without merit. The court entered a verdict in favor of Koch Industries, Charles Koch and David Koch.
It is a sad commentary on today’s media environment that we have to respond to such irresponsible and reckless attacks. Even when Ms. Mayer writes about some of the many contributions made by the Koch family and Koch Industries (such as charitable donations and public policy initiatives), she alleges an ulterior motive cloaked in conspiracy. Many of the claims made in Ms. Mayer’s book represent the lowest form of journalism and only deepen the distrust that many people have toward today’s media.
Jan. 12, 2016: Statement from Dave Robertson, President and Chief Operating Officer, Koch Industries, Inc.
Recent media reports have highlighted a series of false and inaccurate claims about Koch made by Jane Mayer in a book that will be released later this month. As we have told the media, we declined to participate in her book and have not read it. If its content is anything like Ms. Mayer's previous comments about the Koch family, Koch Industries, or the Kochs’ political involvement, then we expect to have deep disagreements and strong objections with her interpretation of the facts and their sourcing.
Of the many false and inaccurate claims that have leaked out so far, the implication that Fred Koch sympathized with one of the most tyrannical regimes in history is reprehensible and represents the lowest form of journalism. Ever since the New York Times reported on this allegation, we have conducted an extensive archival search to collect the facts and share them with you. We firmly believe that you deserve to know the truth about the history of the company you represent.
Between 1928 and 1934, Winkler-Koch Engineering handled more than 500 projects. Of these, 39 involved signed contracts to build cracking units. One of those units was included in a refinery in the port area of Hamburg, Germany, built for Foreign Oil Co. of Boston. During this period, Winkler-Koch worked on hundreds of other international projects, including work in England, Scotland, France, Canada, Romania, the Soviet Union, Persia and India. Winkler-Koch also worked on similar projects throughout the United States, including in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Wyoming, Illinois and Ohio.
Winkler-Koch’s contract with Foreign Oil was signed on Sept. 8, 1933, and the refinery became operational March 23, 1935. That signing was nearly six years before Germany invaded Poland. Meanwhile during that same period, many iconic U.S. companies were doing business in Germany, including Coca-Cola, General Motors, Ford and IBM. While this was Winkler-Koch’s one and only project in Germany, some of those companies continued to do business in Germany throughout World War II.
Simply put, this cracking unit was just one element in the composition of a single refinery. To state that Fred Koch was “hired to build the third-largest refinery in the Third Reich, a critical industrial cog in Hitler’s war machine” is an outrageous assertion. To cherry-pick one project among hundreds during this time frame and then use it out of context in order to further an agenda-driven storyline is grossly inaccurate.
It is a sad commentary on today’s political and media environment that we even have to address such a false and horrific charge. Many of the other claims made about the Koch family are even more preposterous. Suffice it to say, Fred Koch opposed all forms of tyranny. He was a great man who built a great company. Under the leadership of his sons Charles and David we are proud to continue his legacy.
Dave Robertson, President and Chief Operating Officer
Koch Industries, Inc.