City firms may pick up pounds 25m bill in Maxwell deal

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TWO pension trustee companies, MGN and MCP, have been told informally they could receive between pounds 20m and pounds 25m as their share of a global settlement with City firms involved in the Maxwell affair, writes Peter Rodgers.

The trustees launched a dollars 94m legal action against Goldman Sachs in New York on Friday over transfers in 1991 from the pension funds to companies controlled by the Maxwell family.

Sources close to the settlement talks said the writs raised the stakes in the negotiations over cash contributions from Goldman and other firms connected to Maxwell. But the writs are unlikely to force Goldman's withdrawal from the talks.

Legal experts believe the actions are unlikely to come to court if the settlement offer is significantly improved.

Goldman said 'very considerable progress' had recently been made in discussions to ensure all the Maxwell funds were able to satisfy pensioners' needs, and it made clear its hopes of continued negotiations rather than a lengthy court action.

There have been claims that the lawsuit was filed last week to avoid a statute of limitations on legal actions in New York. But it is understood that Goldman had offered the trustees a waiver agreement deferring the final date for legal action while discussions continued.

Goldman has rebutted the claims as 'an expensive, time-consuming distraction', and says that if the two pension funds lost money because of their trades through Goldman, 'they did so because of the way that they and the Maxwell companies were managed, not because of any action of Goldman Sachs or its personnel'.