It pays to have good spreadsheet skills. We’re just now learning that Barclays wound up with scores of Lehman Brothers trading positions that it never meant to buy when a pair of very junior lawyers attempted to reformat an Excel spreadsheet and convert it into a pdf document. The result was that a “hidden” column of 179 contracts no intended to be purchased became unhidden, and when Barclays filed the document with the court it wound up picking up the contracts.
Here’s how the story was reported by AboveTheLaw:
The nightmare started for a first-year Cleary Gottlieb associate on the night of September 18th. The associate was called in for some extra muscle on the Barclays acquisition of Lehman assets. At the request of a second-year associate, the first-year reformatted an Excel spreadsheet of critical contracts to be assumed and assigned in bankruptcy on the closing date of the Lehman/Barclays sale. Predictably, this work was done long after normal business hours, just after 11:30 p.m.
On September 19th, Cleary produced the list of contracts based on the associates’ work the night before.
The problem was that the list contained 179 contracts that should not have been included. The Lehman/Barclays sale closed on September 22nd, with the over inclusive list of contracts.
We don’t know what the financial ramifications of Barclays picking up these unwanted positions might be. But it’s not a harmless error. Motions have been filed with the court to undo the error, and a hearing is scheduled for November 5th.