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Midgely Corner: Excel spreadsheet madness

Added on the 16th Oct 2008 at 10:22 am
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Here's a nice little story – with a topical recession/banking crisis theme – that's just been reported on Finextra. It also tends to suggest that when it comes to technology, lawyers are still about as safe as monkeys with razor blades…

Apparently an error in the formatting of an Excel spreadsheet left Barclays Capital with contracts involving collapsed investment bank Lehman Brothers than it never meant to acquire.

Working to a tight deadline, a junior associate at Cleary
Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP converted an Excel file into a PDF
format document. The document 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 1000 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.

The error was discovered on 1 October, after US Bankruptcy Judge James Peck approved the deal. Barclays has now filed a motion to amend the deal, excluding the scores of contracts it states were mistakenly included in the agreement. The motion is due to be heard on 5 November.

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