LOS ANGELES — An attorney representing California in a case in which a jury found that a French company owned by Francois Pinault’s family conspired to defraud regulators indicated Thursday he was not optimistic about reaching a settlement.

U.S. District Court Judge Howard Matz had encouraged the parties to settle instead of moving forward to a penalty phase. Attorney Gary Fontana said he was taking a wait-and-see attitude, but added, “They made an offer prior to trial that wasn’t remotely close to what it would take to settle.”

The jury Tuesday found the French tycoon’s family holding firm, Artemis, through which he controls the PPR retail and luxury conglomerate, conspired to defraud state regulators as part of an effort to take over the failed insurer Executive Life. Jurors cleared Pinault of any wrongdoing.

Jurors could reconvene to determine damages after Memorial Day, Fontana said. Pinault, through a spokesman, declined to comment on the ruling. But sources close to the entrepreneur said he is pleased with the decision and feels it vindicates him.

In a statement, California insurance commissioner John Garamendi said the verdict “affirms the existence of fraud.”

This story first appeared in the May 12, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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