View from City Road: Bank of America shows the way over Maxwell

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The Independent Online
If any of the institutions facing litigation over the Maxwell pensions saga still lack a new year resolution, perhaps we could suggest a promise to settle out of court as soon as possible.

Yesterday Bank of America used the first working day of 1994 to set an encouraging example. It paid pounds 25m to the Mirror Group pension scheme to meet the trustees' claims against the bank for its role as a custodian of pension fund assets.

The forensic work of tracking down what pensions money went where is now complete. But any hope of making a dent in the pounds 400m-odd still missing relies on the proceeds of court claims brought by pension trustees and the various liquidators winding up the Maxwell empire.

The Mirror Group trustees still have outstanding claims against Credit Suisse, which will reach court in October. The same trustees also have claims against another three institutions for a total of pounds 200m. It makes sense for them to settle.

After all, Bank of America made its payment without admitting any liability for the scheme's losses and it has done its image a power of good by taking the cost on the chin.

The top management of Invesco, which is also being sued, now bears little relation to the set-up during the Maxwell years. Only the threats of further litigation and bad publicity hold Invesco back.

The shares now have their City fans, but it is not uncommon to see the tips qualified with the warning that the Maxwell factor may come back to cause further embarrassment.

Sir John Cuckney continues to work towards a global settlement of all Maxwell-related claims, but he is more than happy to see bilateral deals. Common sense says the other cases should not be allowed to reach court. If deals are done, 1994 could be the year in which the 32,000 Maxwell pensioners will begin to relax.

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