Feeds

Lehman Excel snafu could cost Barclays dear

Hey, whoa, we never meant to buy that bit

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

A formatting fubar involving an Excel spreadsheet has left Barclays Capital with contracts involving collapsed investment bank Lehman Brothers than it never meant to acquire.

Working to a tight deadline, a junior law associate at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP converted an Excel file into a PDF format document. The doc was to be posted on a bankruptcy court's website before a midnight purchase offer deadline on 18 September, just four hours after Barclays sent the spreadsheet to the lawyers. The Excel file contained 1,000 rows of data and 24,000 cells.

Some of these details on various trading contracts were marked as hidden because they were not intended to form part of Barclays' proposed deal. However, this "hidden" distinction was ignored during the reformatting process so that Barclays ended up offering to take on an additional 179 contracts as part of its bankruptcy buyout deal, Finextra reports.

The error was discovered on 1 October, after US Bankruptcy Judge James Peck approved the deal, prompting a legal motion (pdf) from Barclays to amend the deal, excluding the scores of contracts it states were mistakingly included in the agreement. The story was broken by legal tabloid Above The Law.

Lehman Brothers sought bankruptcy protection on 15 September, a move that set off a chain of events that have shaken confidence in global financial institutions and the collapse of stock markets across the globe that has only been partially reversed by unprecedented government bail-outs to the banking sector. Barclays first offered to buy a "stripped clean" portion of Lehman for around $1.75bn on 16 September.

A revised version of the deal was eventually agreed on 18 September, largely focusing on the New York arm of Lehman's business (including its $910m-valued headquarters) and responsibility for 9,000 former employees. Barclays paid $1.35bn for these assets as well as taking on responsibility for some of Lehman's trading positions which, because of the formatting error, became more numerous than it intended.

It's unclear what the financial ramifications of the formatting error might be. Excel spreadsheets might seem a fairly unsophisticated method of logging multi-billion pound trading positions, but they are quick to produce and easy to understand - vital consideration in a financial market - which makes them widely used.

A hearing on Barclays Capital's attempts to extricate itself from the mess created by the dodgy Excel conversion is pencilled in for 5 November. ®

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
Why has the web gone to hell? Market chaos and HUMAN NATURE
Tim Berners-Lee isn't happy, but we should be
Apple promises to lift Curse of the Drained iPhone 5 Battery
Have you tried turning it off and...? Never mind, here's a replacement
'Stop dissing Google or quit': OK, I quit, says Code Club co-founder
And now a message from our sponsors: 'STFU or else'
Microsoft boots 1,500 dodgy apps from the Windows Store
DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS! Naughty, misleading developers!
Linux turns 23 and Linus Torvalds celebrates as only he can
No, not with swearing, but by controlling the release cycle
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
This is how I set about making a fortune with my own startup
Would you leave your well-paid job to chase your dream?
prev story

Whitepapers

Best practices for enterprise data
Discussing how technology providers have innovated in order to solve new challenges, creating a new framework for enterprise data.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?