Artemis, the holding company controlled by French billionaire Francois Pinault, has been ordered to pay $700 million in punitive damages by a US federal court over its role in the sale of failed insurer Executive Life Insurance during the 1990s.

The jury concluded that Artemis conspired with Credit Lyonnais and several other French investors to defraud Californian regulators.

Lawyers for Artemis are contesting the verdict however, and have stated confidence that the verdict would be reversed. They noted that the jury only awarded punitive damages but failed to find any actual damages.

California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi had accused Credit Lyonnais, which was owned by the French government at that time, of using front companies to gain control of Executive Life, thereby violating Californian law.

Garamendi alleged that Artemis became a part of the conspiracy when it purchased Executive Life and its bond portfolio from Credit Lyonnais a year later in an effort to distract state regulators from a probe of the original transaction.