Atlantic legal wrangle worsens

The mass of legal actions involved in the disastrous acquisition of Atlantic Computers by British & Commonwealth Holdings is set to become more entangled following the start of legal action by partners of former accountants Spicer & Oppenheim.

Spicers, the former auditor of Atlantic, has issued a writ against KPMG Peat Marwick, which had audited certain Atlantic subsidiaries.

Linklaters & Paines is acting for Spicers and is just one of 23 law firms acting on the Atlantic/B&C case. More than 70 separate actions are thought to have been launched recently, which prompted Atlantic's liquidator John Soden of Price Waterhouse to describe the case as a legal “mess”. He has also called for some of the more speculative actions to be dropped (The Lawyer, 9 August).

A Spicers spokeswoman says in keeping with the many other protective actions, the writ has not yet been served. “Their hope is not to serve it unless they feel compelled by B&C choosing to continue with proceedings.”

The writ, for undisclosed damages, is a claim for negligence and/or breaches of duty and/or negligent misstatement, and/or negligent misrepresentation, and/or negligent withholding of information.

Soden says the latest writ illustrates the problem of growing litigation, where everyone is suing everybody else, and the difficulty of managing it all. “It's the ripple effect – the impact is spreading and spreading. I wouldn't be surprised if more people are drawn into the net.”

Price Waterhouse will consider how communication between the principal parties can be best managed, in a case which is expected to involve claims of u3 billion and to last for a decade.

Atlantic went into administration in 1990, bringing down its parent company B&C with debts of u1.2 billion, making it the largest ever UK corporate collapse.