Lehman Brothers is accusing a Japanese trading company of perpetrating a massive fraud and plans to sue it for hundreds of millions of dollars, officials at the U.S. investment bank said Sunday.
Lehman is seeking to recoup $350 million in outstanding loans, which it provided to a unit of LTT Bio-Pharma, according to company officials, who spoke condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the case.
The subsidiary, a medical consulting company, filed for bankruptcy March 19, leaving investors stuck with millions in outstanding loans.
Matthew Russell, a senior spokesman for Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., said that Japanese trading giant Marubeni Corp. secured the loans and should repay them. The company's Japanese unit, Lehman Brothers Japan Inc., will file a civil suit as early as Monday at the Tokyo District Court, Russell said.
Marubeni said in a statement Saturday that it did not secure the loans, and documents to that effect are fake. It contends that it is also a victim of the alleged fraud and therefore should not have to cover any damages.
LTT Bio-Pharma acknowledged in a statement this month that its unit's bankruptcy was related to "an alleged illegal transaction."
Marubeni fired two of its employees after acknowledging that they may have collaborated with the fund's managers to forge documents, according to the statement. It added that Marubeni has filed a separate criminal complaint against the fund's managers.
"We have nothing to do with the fraudulent acts, and we have no obligation to cover any repayment requests," Marubeni said.
Russell said that his company has been "working closely with the (Japanese) authorities on a fraud it uncovered that was perpetrated by employees at Marubeni ... at the company's offices." He said Lehman is among "several financial institutions and other parties" that have been allegedly defrauded.
Russell said meetings were held at Marubeni's office to discuss the funds before the agreement was struck late last year. He declined to discuss the amount of the loans or details of the transactions, citing ongoing police probe.
"Lehman Brothers is confident that it undertook all the appropriate measures on the transaction," Russell said, adding that his company "is confident in its legal case and fully expects its funds to be repaid."
Officials of LTT-Bio-Pharma, its bankrupt unit and its lawyer were not available for comment Sunday.