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Executive Life damages tossed

A new trial is ordered to recalculate award won by state over the insurer's takeover.

August 26, 2008|From the Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — An appeals court Monday tossed out a $241-million award won by the state of California in a lawsuit stemming from the takeover of failed insurer Executive Life by French investors.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the award by a lower-court judge and ordered a new trial to recalculate the damages that Artemis, one of the investors, should pay the state.

The case stems from California's 1991 takeover of Executive Life Insurance Co. after it failed.

The next year, the state insurance commissioner sold the company's junk-bond portfolio for $3.25 billion to an investor group that included the French bank Credit Lyonnais, which is controlled by the French government.

Because California law at the time banned foreign governments from owning insurance companies, Credit Lyonnais officials gave assurances that private investors would control the new company created by the sale of Executive Life's junk bonds.

In 1999, the state Department of Insurance sued the French investors after officials said they had uncovered a conspiracy to conceal the French government's control of the new company.

Most of the investors, including Credit Lyonnais, settled the legal dispute for close to $700 million in 2005.

Artemis and investor Francois Pinault, however, took the case to trial. A jury ruled against Artemis but exonerated Pinault. Monday's ruling by the San Francisco appeals court came in the judgment against Artemis.

Former Credit Lyonnais Chairman Jean Peyrelevade also pleaded guilty in federal court in Los Angeles in 2006 to making false statements to the U.S. Federal Reserve about the bank's purchase of the junk bonds. He was sentenced to probation and fined $500,000.

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