Barclays-Lehman Legal Battles Rage On

The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.

NEW YORK ( Trefis) -- Barclays' ( BCS) legal battle with Lehman Holdings is not showing any signs of coming to an end, as the Securities and Exchange Commission is backing Lehman's claims over assets worth almost $3 billion and further complicating the situation.

Barclays and Lehman have been tied up in a series of lawsuits since Lehman's bankruptcy proceedings began in September 2008. The SEC voiced its opinion in favor of Lehman's claims to the assets, citing the interests of Lehman's customers. Lehman still needs about $5 billion to make up for the shortfall in its customer reserve accounts, and under these circumstances, the SEC opines that Barclays only has a conditional claim on less than half of the assets.

The London-based bank already has a lot on its plate, with the U.K. government ratifying the ICB's recommendations which will directly affect its business and that of competitors like RBS ( RBS).

We maintain a $33 price estimate for Barclays' stock and attribute the near 30% premium over the current market price to investor pessimism regarding banking stocks in light of economic conditions and the European debt situation.

Lehman's long-drawn bankruptcy proceedings have been inching towards a possible reorganization, which was earlier slated for the fourth quarter but now would likely be implemented early next year.

The legal battle between Barclays and Lehman resulted from Barclays' acquisition of a significant portion of the once fourth-largest investment bank in the U.S. Barclays' sizable profit from the deal was evident within months, and Lehman demanded a whopping $11 billion as compensation for the "windfall" as part of one court case, in addition to contesting Barclays' claims over margin assets worth $2 billion and reserve assets worth $1.3 billion.

To Barclays' relief, the first case was decided in its favor and Lehman's demands were dismissed. It wasn't so lucky with the second decision and was asked to pay the $2 billion in margin assets, and was only granted conditional rights over $769 million of the $1.3 billion in reserve assets.

Besides adding to Barclays' legal bills, this legal tussle could result in the bank having to shell out as much as $2 billion to Lehman as a settlement, which could have a substantial negative impact on the stock.

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This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.

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