Tag: Lehman Brothers

Lehman Bankruptcy Court Interprets Safe Harbor Protections

The following post comes to us from James L. Bromley, partner and a leader of the global restructuring and insolvency practice at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, and is based on a Cleary Gottlieb alert memorandum.

On April 19, 2012, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York granted in part a motion to dismiss claims asserted by Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. (together with its debtor-affiliates, “Lehman”) against JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A (“JPMorgan”). [1] The claims at issue arose from JPMorgan’s efforts in the months leading up to Lehman’s bankruptcy to mitigate its exposure as Lehman’s primary clearing bank by requiring Lehman to post a significant amount of additional collateral and expand the scope of the obligations secured by that collateral. Lehman and its creditors’ committee challenged these transactions under the avoidance provisions of the Bankruptcy Code and asserted other causes of action, including common law claims for unjust enrichment and invalidation of the contractual amendments that improved JPMorgan’s position.

The decision applies the safe harbor protections of Section 546(e) to dismiss Lehman’s preference and constructive fraud claims. However, the court rejected JPMorgan’s efforts to apply Section 546(e) more broadly, allowing Lehman’s parallel common law claims to proceed even where they are based on similar allegations. The decision also applies a relaxed pleading standard to Lehman’s claims for actual fraud, under which it found that Lehman had adequately alleged facts to state a claim under Section 548(a)(1)(A). The decision thus provides support for a literal application of the safe harbor protections to dismiss certain claims at the pleading stage. However, the decision also suggests that even where a transaction falls within the scope of Section 546(e), artful pleading may permit plaintiffs to survive a motion to dismiss. The decision thus underscores the importance of considering potential litigation risks and costs when analyzing transactions with distressed counterparties.


UK Supreme Court on Protection of Client Monies

Barnabas Reynolds is head of the global Financial Institutions Advisory & Financial Regulatory Group at Shearman & Sterling LLP. This post is based on a Shearman & Sterling client publication.

The Lehman Brothers International (Europe) (In Administration) (“LBIE”) client money litigation has generated significant interest. It deals with fundamental issues concerning the protections given by financial institutions to their clients. The decisions of the High Court and Court of Appeal on LBIE were keenly followed by the market. [1] Certain key points were appealed to the UK’s highest court, the Supreme Court (previously the House of Lords), which handed down its judgment this week. [2] The case is of great interest not only for the Lehman creditors but also for those with interests in the MF Global administration, and more generally for customers who are concerned about assets that they place with financial institutions.

What did the Supreme Court ruling address?

The Supreme Court ruled on the following three issues:

  • When does the statutory trust in relation to client money arise – upon receipt by a firm or when the firm segregates it?
  • Do the client money distribution rules apply to all identifiable client money, including client money held in house accounts?
  • Is participation in the notional client money pool (“CMP”) dependent on actual segregation of client money, or do clients for whom client money was not segregated, but who were entitled to have it segregated, share in the CMP?


Paid to Fail

Editor’s Note: This post is based on an op-ed article, coauthored by Lucian Bebchuk, Alma Cohen and Holger Spamann, written for the international association of newspapers Project Syndicate, as part of the series of monthly columns titled “The Rules of the Game,” which can be found here. The op-ed article draws on a discussion paper issued by the Program on Corporate Governance, which can be found here.

In a report just filed with the United States court that is overseeing the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, a court-appointed examiner described how Lehman’s executives made deliberate decisions to pursue an aggressive investment strategy, take on greater risks, and substantially increase leverage. Were these decisions the result of hubris and errors in judgment or the product of flawed incentives?

After Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers melted down, ushering in a worldwide crisis, media reports largely assumed that the wealth of these firms’ executives was wiped out, together with that of the firms they navigated into disaster. This “standard narrative” led commentators to downplay the role of flawed compensation arrangements and the importance of reforming the structures of executive pay.

In our study, “The Wages of Failure: Executive Compensation at Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers 2000-2008,” we examine this standard narrative and find it to be incorrect. We piece together the cash flows derived by the firms’ top five executives using data from Securities and Exchange Commission filings. We find that, notwithstanding the 2008 collapse of the firms, the bottom lines of those executives for the period 2000-2008 were positive and substantial.


Cashing in Before the Music Stopped

Editor’s Note: This post is based on an op-ed article from the print edition of today’s Financial Times by Lucian Bebchuk, Alma Cohen, and Holger Spamann. The op-ed article is based on their study, “The Wages of Failure: Executive pay at Bear Stearns and Lehman 2000-2008,” which is available here. Although Lucian Bebchuk is a consultant to the US Treasury’s office of the special master for TARP executive compensation, the views expressed in the post should not be attributed to that office.

According to the standard narrative, the meltdown of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers largely wiped out the wealth of their top executives. Many – in the media, academia and the financial sector – have used this account to dismiss the view that pay structures caused excessive risk-taking and that reforming such structures is important. That standard narrative, however, turns out to be incorrect.

It is true that the top executives at both banks suffered significant losses on shares they held when their companies collapsed. But our analysis, using data from Securities and Exchange Commission filings, shows the banks’ top five executives had cashed out such large amounts since the beginning of this decade that, even after the losses, their net pay-offs during this period were substantially positive.

In 2000-07, the top five executives at Bear and Lehman pocketed cash bonuses exceeding $300m and $150m respectively (adjusted to 2009 dollars). Although the financial results on which bonus payments were based were sharply reversed in 2008, pay arrangements allowed executives to keep past bonuses.