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Receivers seek block on claims

The Government has held secret meetings with receivers' representatives in an attempt to head off compensation claims of up to £2bn against the accountancy profession, arising from a controversial Law Lords ruling made last week.

Jonathan Evans, minister for corporate affairs, met representatives of the Society of Practitioners of Insolvency on Wednesday to hear the group's request for retrospective legislation to solve the problem.

The Law Lords ruling in the Paramount Airways case made receivers and administrators liable for severance payments and pensions contributions of employees kept on for more than 14 days after a company had gone bust.

The judgement affects those sacked between 29 December 1986 and March 1994, and the SPI estimates that up to half a million former employees may be able to make claims.

Receivers are worried by the growing tide of claims. For instance, LawNet, an association of more than 70 law firms in the UK, has already received "a couple of dozen" claims in response to its offer of a free initial consultation on the implications of Paramount.

Another organisation, Crown Redundancy Service (Recovery), advertised in a national newspaper yesterday under the slogan "Ever been redundant?". The advertisement, urging applicants to send a £10 registration fee in return for a "claim pack", gave only a PO box number. No telephone number was available from directory enquiries, and the SPI said: "We don't know who they are."

Sources said the Government wanted more precise estimates of possible claims. The SPI said it hoped to gather the data in days rather than weeks.