Last Updated Oct 3, 2011 12:02 PM EDT
Now a new report suggests that in their own corporation, they've taken a different approach to government regulation: They've simply ignored it.
An extensive investigation in Bloomberg Markets magazine finds that Koch Industries has made multiple 'improper payments' (read: bribes) to win business in Africa, India and the Middle East; rigged prices with competitors; and used foreign subsidiaries to sell equipment to Iran. (Read the full story here.)
According to the Bloomberg report, the company had a widespread culture of cheating and deception.
Sally Barnes-Soliz, who's now an investigator for the State Department of Labor and Industries in Washington, says that when she worked for Koch, her bosses and a company lawyer at the Koch refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas, asked her to falsify data for a report to the state on uncontrolled emissions of benzene, a known cause of cancer. Barnes-Soliz, who testified to a federal grand jury, says she refused to alter the numbers.The company is a massive conglomerate with operations in oil, chemicals, textiles, trading and consumer goods -- including Dixie cups, Brawny paper towels and Quilted Northern bath tissue, which are all made by Koch subsidiary Georgia- Pacific.
"They didn't know what to do with me," she says. "They were really kind of baffled that I had ethics."
Charles and David Koch tied for fourth place on this year's Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans, with an estimated net worth of $25 billion each.
Over the last 5 years, Bloomberg found, Koch Industries has spent more than $50 million on lobbying Washington to fight derivatives regulation and greenhouse gas limits.
Bloomberg Markets says neither brother agreed to be interviewed for the article.
More on MoneyWatch: