Legal battles cost pensioners pounds 181m

The Maxwell Trial; Day 68
Legal battles that delayed compensation for 30,000 Maxwell group pensioners ended up costing them pounds 181.6m in lost investment income, an Old Bailey fraud trial heard yesterday.

Only NatWest bank had voluntarily given back assets it held as collateral for loans, said Mr Neil Cooper, the Robson Rhodes accountant appointed one of the joint liquidators of the Maxwell pension fund company, Bishopsgate Investment Management (BIM).

Mr Cooper denied accusations by Kevin Maxwell's defence that he had fought his case in the newspapers and that he had been photographed by them in a "Napoleonic stance".

The accountant revealed that courtroom battles and negotiations to get assets back had cost pounds 9m in legal fees.

In addition, the trustees of the pension funds had spent "millions" on their own independent legal actions, he said.

Asked on Day 68 of the trial to say what his own firm had earned, he apologised for not knowing but said it was also "millions of pounds".

When he took over soon after the crash, the pension fund should have been worth pounds 406.3m.

If all those assets had been immediately available after the mysterious death of Robert Maxwell in November 1991 the pension funds would now be worth pounds 587.9m as measured by "combined actuarial performance". The difference between those two figures is pounds 181.6m.

He said a settlement since his appointment recovered pounds 170m from Robert Maxwell Group, Maxwell Communications Corporation, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers and Coopers and Lybrand.

Kevin Maxwell, his brother, Ian and former Maxwell aide Larry Trachtenberg all deny conspiracy to defraud by misuse of pension fund investments.

The trial was adjourned to today.