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François Pinault Wins Round in Insurance Case

The French executive has prevailed in the long-running legal battle between Artemis SA and California’s insurance commissioner, at least for now.

LOS ANGELES — François Pinault has prevailed in the long-running legal battle between Artemis SA and California’s insurance commissioner, at least for now.

This story first appeared in the November 6, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

After an eight-day federal jury trial in the U.S. District Court, Central District of California here, jurors on Oct. 29 rejected the claim in which the California insurance commissioner was seeking $4.33 billion in profits and interest stemming from the sale of a California life insurance company and junk-bond portfolio to French investors in 1991.

Artemis, the holding company through which Pinault controls luxury conglomerate PPR, acquired part of the junk-bond portfolio in 1992 and a controlling stake in the insurance company. The case first went to trial in 2005 and Artemis was the only one of the French defendants that didn’t settle with the insurance commissioner.

“After 13 years of litigation, the jury’s verdict on the last remaining damage theory confirms what we have been saying all along: Artemis did not cause any damage to anyone,” said Robert Weigel, the New York-based attorney representing Artemis.

Gilles Pagniez, Paris-based legal counsel for Artemis, said, “We are very satisfied because the popular jury found in our favor.” He added that the judge would publish a formal ruling by yearend and the California insurance commissioner may yet appeal the decision. However, any appeal would likely not come until next year.