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Judge: Lehman can investigate Barclays

/ Source: The Associated Press

A bankruptcy judge said Wednesday that managers of the Lehman Brothers estate can investigate whether Barclays got "too good of a deal" when it bought Lehman's broker-dealer unit last fall.

Barclays PLC bought the brokerage after emerging as the lone bidder in the chaotic week after Lehman filed for Chapter 11 protection on Sept. 15, 2008, touching off a global credit crisis. Now Lehman says it wants Barclays to hand over documents and let it interview employees to determine what Barclays actually paid.

The proceeds of the sale benefit the Lehman estate, which will pay off creditors who may have received nothing so far.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge James Peck said in court, "We will get to the truth."

One issue Lehman seeks to investigate is how much Barclays paid to former Lehman employees who went to work at the British bank. It had originally promised to pay $2 billion in bonuses. Lehman lawyer Robert Gaffey of Jones Day said there is a possibility Barclays only paid $700 million of that.

Lehman's CEO, Bryan Marsal, has asked how much was paid and has not received an answer, Gaffey said.

Lehman lawyers also want to investigate whether Barclays gained $5 billion through an undisclosed "discount" in a $50 billion repurchase agreement tied to the sale. And it also plans to look into $1.5 billion Barclays was to pay to get out of certain contracts.

Peck sided with Lehman, saying that it deserved to know just what liabilities Barclays had absorbed. Peck said the sale agreement had been rushed, as an unprecedented financial crisis unfolded, and that it was possible mistakes had been made.

"What if they made a huge mistake because of the pressure of time?" Peck asked.

Barclays lawyer Hamish Hume had argued the investigation was redundant, since an independent examiner has already been appointed by the court.

"It's exceptionally broad and it's very intrusive," Hume said. Barclays spokesman Peter Truell said it does not expect the investigation to result in any additional claims and that it will continue to cooperate with Lehman.

Anton Valukas, a former federal prosecutor and specialist in white collar crime, is conducting an investigation to determine, in part, whether Lehman executives lied, committed fraud or mismanaged the company. He will also look into the Barclays deal.

Investigators from Lehman plan to coordinate with Valukas's team as well as representatives of the creditors committee and Securities Investor Protection Corp.

Valukas's report, originally expected to be complete in November, is likely to take longer than that, a lawyer who represents the examiner said.