£7.3bn pot for Lehman's European claims

CREDITORS left out of pocket after the collapse of the European arm of Lehman Brothers could claim a share of £7.3billion cash if they agree a plan drawn up by administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The company, called in to deal with the spider's web of transactions when Lehman's European business went under in 2008, said yesterday unsecured creditors could receive their money earlier if they were willing to accept lower pay-outs.

Steven Pearson, joint administrator, said he was hoping that creditors would agree a "consensual approach", which would save years of further complex untangling.

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The 7.3bn pot of cash represents around half of unsecured claims, which PwC estimates total between $18bn (12bn) and $22bn.

Pearson said: "The consensual approach is entirely dependent upon the willingness of the overwhelming majority of financial trading counterparties to support the process."

If an agreement is reached, it would mark the third settlement PwC has made since it walked through the doors of Lehman's European headquarters in Canary Wharf in September 2008. In total, the administrators have had to deal with $48.6bn of assets.

Administrators have said in the past that it could take up to a decade to untie the complicated knot of transactions.

• The UK accountancy regulator, the Accountancy and Actuarial Disciplinary Board, has launched an investigation into the actions of Ernst & Young prior to the collapse of Lehman Brothers in the United States.

The UK investigation follows an American report in which E&Y, as the bank's auditor, was found to be aware of Lehman's use of "Repo 105s" – an aggressive accountancy method which helped it to mask $50bn of assets on its balance sheet prior to its implosion.

E&Y said: "(Our] audit opinion stated that Lehman's financial statements for that year (end 30 November 2007] were fairly presented in accordance with the relevant accounting standards."