Northern Rock shareholders launch JR against govt

Northern Rock shareholders launch JR against govtFormer shareholders in nationalised bank Northern Rock have today (8 May) applied to launch a judicial review claiming the Government’s proposed compensation package is inadequate.

The judicial review is being led by the UK Shareholders Association, which represents individuals who held shares in the bank and is advised by Edwin Coe partner David Greene. Hedge fund SRM, which held a significant position in the bank, is also taking part under advice from White & Case partner John Reynolds.

Hedge fund RAB Capital is expected to join the review next week, under advice from Nabarro partner Peter Fitzpatrick.

A spokesman for SRM said: “Northern Rock’s shareholders have had an unfair compensation proposal forced on them and the only redress is through the courts.

“The unexplained delay by the Government to appoint a valuer for Northern Rock has caused much uncertainty and heartache to the many individual shareholders who were looking to rely on their shares as a nest egg or part of their provision for their retirement. No shareholder enters into litigation lightly, but in these circumstances institutional investors and individual shareholders have no alternative.

“It is entirely within the Government’s power to avoid lengthy and expensive litigation by introducing an unbiased compensation scheme,” he added.

As reported by TheLawyer.com, the former shareholders’ lawyers wrote to the Treasury asking that the compensation provisions outlined in the Banking (Special Provisions) Act, which was rushed through Parliament to allow Northern Rock to be nationalised, be revised.

The shareholders claim that under the terms of the act any compensation payment will be negligible while the book value of the bank at the time of nationalisation would have been £4 per share.

After twice extending the 21-day timeframe the shareholders’ set for receiving a reply, the Government refused to alter the act, sending its response via Slaughter and May partner Elizabeth Barrett.

The judicial review claims that Northern Rock was a profitable and solvent business when it passed into the Government’s hands. It is asking the High Court to investigate the conduct of the Government, the Bank of England, the Treasury and the Financial Services Authority in the provision of lender of last resort support as well as in the process that led to the decision to nationalise and then to impose the compensation scheme.

Economist Professor Tim Congdon will give evidence that shareholders claim will demonstrate that it is unprecedented for a solvent bank to be nationalised after receiving lender of last resort support.