Lennar Corp. has been awarded $1 billion in damages by a civil jury that found the Miami-based home-builder was the target of defamation and an extortion conspiracy by a California developer and his company.
In a statement late Tuesday, Lennar surmised it is unlikely it will ever see any money from Nicolas Marsch III and Briarwood Capital.
“While collecting the award is doubtful, the true value of the verdict is the validation of our integrity, credibility and transparency, which have always been cornerstones of our foundation,” said Stuart Miller, Lennar’s chief executive officer. “The jury award represents a complete vindication of Lennar’s reputation and good name.”
The dispute between Lennar and Marsch, which spans more than seven years, arose from a partnership developing a gated golf community in Rancho Sante Fe, California.
The jury late Monday awarded Lennar $802 million in compensatory damages and $200 million in punitive damages after weighing evidence that Marsch was liable for conspiring with convicted felon and onetime Wall Street wunderkind Barry Minkow to extort money from the Miami company. In 2011, Minkow pleaded guilty and entered federal prison to serve a five-year term for his role in the same extortion and defamation scheme. In U.S. District Court in Miami, Minkow admitted that he disseminated lies about Lennar through his investment website in an effort to undercut Lennar’s stock price.
Marsch has always denied he had anything to do with Minkow’s ruminations about Lennar.
“The jury’s award sends an unmistakable message that you cannot extort companies and lie for money and expect to get away with it,” said Daniel Petrocelli of O’Melveny & Myers in Los Angeles, the lead trial lawyer for Lennar.
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