A Miami jury awarded Lennar Corp. $1 billion in civil damages against California developer Nicolas Marsch and his company, Briarwood Capital LLC, on court findings of defamation and conspiracy to extort money from Lennar.
The award, which includes $802 million in compensatory damage and $200 million in punitive damages, brings to an end a seven-year legal dispute that involved courts in both California and Florida, and represents a “complete vindication of Lennar’s reputation and good name,” Lennar Corp. said.
According to findings in the trial court, Marsch was liable for conspiring with former convicted felon Barry Minkow in extorting money from Lennar. Minkow was convicted on fraud, racketeering and tax evasion charges in 1989 involving his carpet cleaning business, ZZZZ Best.
After his release from prison in 1995, Minkow became a minister of a San Diego church and a fraud consultant.
Marsch contracted with Minkow for help with the lawsuit against Lennar, the home developer, involving the partnership’s development at The Bridges in Rancho Santa Fe.
According to court documents, Marsch launched a campaign in 2006 to force Lennar to pay him $39 million he claimed was owed, and used Minkow to issue a barrage of news releases alleging Lennar was misappropriating corporate funds, and liable for other misdeeds. Those missives caused Lennar’s stock to crater.
In 2011, Minkow pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit stock fraud and was sentenced to five years, and to pay Lennar $583.5 million in restitution.
Stuart Miller, chief executive officer of Lennar, said in a statement that collecting the latest award from Marsch is doubtful, but the true value of the verdict is “the validation of our integrity, credibility and transparency.”