Excel error leaves Barclays with more Lehman assets than it bargained for
Law firm says spreadsheet reformatting error added 179 contracts to bankruptcy buyout deal
Computerworld - A reformatting error in an Excel spreadsheet has cropped up in the largest bankruptcy case in U.S. history, prompting a legal motion by Barclays Capital Inc. to amend its deal to buy some of the assets of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.
The law firm representing Barclays filed the motion (download PDF) on Friday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, seeking to exclude 179 Lehman contracts that it said were mistakenly included in the asset purchase agreement. The firm — Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP — said in the motion that one of its first-year law associates had unknowingly added the contracts when reformatting a spreadsheet in Excel.
At the time when the error occurred, Cleary Gottlieb was working under a tight deadline put in place by the bankruptcy court to submit the purchase offer from Barclays, according to the motion. The mistake was discovered Oct. 1 and was first reported by Above the Law, a legal news Web site.
A representative of the law firm declined to comment about the matter today.
Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy on Sept. 15, in the first of a series of blows to the financial sector that quickly led to the meltdown of stock markets worldwide. Three days later, Barclays agreed to acquire some of the U.S. assets of the financially strapped investment bank.
"This court has previously recognized the exigent circumstances surrounding the sale order and the harm to the financial markets that would have resulted had this deal not been completed quickly," Cleary Gottlieb said in Friday's motion. It added that the parties to the deal "were working literally around the clock on an extremely compressed schedule." In light of those circumstances, the law firm asked the bankruptcy court to "correct the record to accurately reflect" the list of Lehman contracts that Barclays meant to include in the deal.
According to the motion, Barclays sent the spreadsheet containing the list of contracts to Cleary Gottlieb at 7:48 p.m. EDT on Sept. 18. The spreadsheet — which contained almost 1,000 rows of data with a total of more than 24,000 individual cells — needed to be reformatted and converted into a PDF file so it could be posted on the bankruptcy court's Web site before midnight. At 11:37 p.m., Cleary Gottlieb sent the converted file to the court, the motion said.
However, contracts that had been marked as "hidden" in the spreadsheet when it was received by the law firm were added to the purchase offer during the reformatting process, according to the motion. Those contracts weren't supposed to be part of the deal; they also were marked with an "N" for "No" in the original version of the spreadsheet, Cleary Gottlieb said in the motion.
A hearing on the motion has been scheduled for Nov. 5.
Spreadsheets have long been one of the most popular ways for corporate users to store and analyze data. But over the past few years, they have played an increasing role in data breaches because workers are apt to store them unsecured on laptops. In addition, hackers have actively tried to exploit vulnerabilities in Excel.
Wall Street meltdown
- Q&A: Schwartz says financial meltdown plays into Sun's hands
- Gartner: Financial meltdown may mean IT hiring freezes, staff cuts
- With market meltdown, which tech firms become predator or prey?
- Wall Street meltdown linked to 'outsourcing' of regulation to private code
- Microsoft's lobbying on bailout bill fails to sway votes
- FAQ: The IT worker's Wall Street meltdown worry list
- The tech sector's silent alarm: VC drying up
- Wall Street meltdown to drive risk management investments
- Wall Street's collapse computer science's gain?
- Bailout won't keep Wall Street from offshoring
Read more about Desktop Apps in Computerworld's Desktop Apps Topic Center.
- 15 Non-Certified IT Skills Growing in Demand
- How 19 Tech Titans Target Healthcare
- Twitter Suffering From Growing Pains (and Facebook Comparisons)
- Agile Comes to Data Integration
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- HP HAVEn: See the big picture in Big Data HP HAVEn is the industry's first comprehensive, scalable, open, and secure platform for Big Data. Enterprises are drowning in a sea of data...
- What Datapipe customers need to know about the new PCI DSS 3.0 compliance standard This handy quick reference outlines what PCI DSS 3.0 is, who needs to be compliant and how Alert Logic solutions address the new...
- The 12 PCI DSS 3.0 requirements addressed by Peer 1 Hosting This handy quick reference outlines the 12 PCI DSS 3.0 requirements, who needs to be compliant and how Alert Logic solutions address the...
- Defense Throughout the Vulnerability Life Cycle This whitepaper provides insight into how to leverage threat and log management technologies to protect your IT assets throughout their vulnerability life cycle.
- Meg Whitman presents Unlocking IT with Big Data During this Web Event you will hear Meg Whitman, President and CEO, HP discuss HAVEn - the #1 Big Data platform, as well...
- The New Way to Work Knowledge Vault This Knowledge Vault focuses on how, in today's increasingly virtual world, it's more important than ever to engage deeply with employees, suppliers, partners,... All Desktop Apps White Papers | Webcasts