Lehman Brothers hurried sale of much of its US operations to Barclays at the height of the financial crisis was fair, a bankruptcy court judge has ruled. That means Lehman’s creditors are not entitled to recover the equivalent of eight billion euros from the UK bank.
Lawyers had argued that Barclays got a preferential deal in buying Lehman’s US investment banking and brokerage operations. They were sold for the equivalent of about 1.3 billion euros in September 2008.
That was just after Lehman filed for bankruptcy protection which many consider to have been the seminal event of the global financial crisis.
US Bankruptcy Judge James Peck said: “The sale process may have been imperfect, but it was still adequate under the exceptional circumstances.”
He added that any disclosure lapses did not affect the “fairness” or outcome of the sale hearing. He said there was an “undeniably correct” perception at the time that the sale “mitigated systemic risk,” helped avert “an even greater economic calamity,” and benefited all interested parties.
“The court still would have entered the very same sale order because there was no better alternative and, perhaps most importantly, because the sale to Barclays was the means both to avoid a potentially disastrous piecemeal liquidation and to save thousands of jobs in the troubled financial services industry,” he said.
Lehman’s bankruptcy estate declined immediate comment, saying the company is reviewing Peck’s decision. It could appeal.
Barclays said it was pleased the court found the transaction was “the product of arm’s length negotiations,” and that it had acted in good faith.
Lehman has also sued other banks including Bank of America, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and JPMorgan Chase to recover assets for creditors.