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Lennar Says It Won $1 Billion Verdict Against Developer

Lennar Corp. said a jury awarded it $1 billion in damages against a California developer, Nicolas Marsch III, who the homebuilder accused of defamation and conspiring with Barry Minkow to extort money from the company.

“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,” Lennar Chief Executive Officer Stuart Miller said today in a statement. “The jury award represents a complete vindication of Lennar’s reputation and good name.”

The jury award couldn’t immediately be confirmed in records in Florida state court in Miami. It’s the third-largest jury award in the U.S. so far this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The largest is a $1.2 billion judgment in an antitrust claim against Dow Chemical Co.

Lennar’s shares dropped as much as 28 percent in January 2009 after Minkow’s Fraud Discovery Institute alleged the homebuilder operated like a Ponzi scheme. Lennar, based in Miami, claimed Minkow made the accusations at the behest of Marsch, whose company Briarwood Capital LLC was involved in litigation with Lennar.

Minkow pleaded guilty to making false and misleading statements about Lennar and was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay $583 million in restitution. He previously served a seven-year term for defrauding investors in his ZZZZ Best Co. carpet-cleaning business.

Keith Grumer, a lawyer for Marsch, didn’t immediately respond to a phone call to his office seeking comment on the verdict.

The case is Lennar Corp. v. Briarwood Capital LLC, 2008-055741-CA-01, Florida Circuit Court, Miami-Dade County.

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