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Lennar takes a hit after claims

CEO says developer will sue

Posted: January 9, 2009 12:48 p.m.
Updated: January 9, 2009 9:35 p.m.
 
Shares of Lennar Corp. tumbled as much as 28 percent Friday after a consumer group accused the homebuilder of fraudulent business practices, but the stock began to recover after the company strongly denied all allegations.

A group called the Fraud Discovery Institute Inc. released a report citing the top 10 flags for fraud at Lennar, including a claim that Lennar's joint ventures were operated as Ponzi schemes.

The group is led by Barry Minkow, who started it after serving a sentence for fraud at his own former company ZZZZ Best Co.

Lennar blasted the accusations in a statement Friday.

"Today convicted felon Barry Minkow, acting as an agent for a disgruntled litigant, Nicolas Marsch III, posted false and inflammatory accusations concerning Lennar," the statement read.

Lennar, based in Miami, has built homes in Stevenson Ranch and Saugus. It also owns 16 percent of LandSource Communities Development LLC, which owns The Newhall Land and Farming Co.
Newhall Land developed Valencia.

Lennar Chief Executive Officer Stuart Miller told Suzanne O'Halloran of Bloomberg News on Friday he intends to sue Minkow for claims made on the Fraud Discovery Institute Web site.

"We have already filed and brought action against the primary litigant (Marsch). We would expect that some time next week we will be adding Mr. Minkow to that litigation. We alleged this in our lawsuit - we believe this is clearly extorted activity," Miller told O'Halloran.

A source close to Lennar also confirmed for The Signal that a lawsuit would be filed against Minkow.

The company said the accusations were made even after a California Superior Court judge dismissed a civil case brought by Marsch against Lennar.

Shares of Lennar closed Friday at $9.15, down $2.27, or 19.9 percent. They had hit a low of $8.23 in the morning. Lennar shares have traded between $3.42 and $22.73 in the past 52 weeks.

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