U.S. Bankruptcy Court Rules on Whether Money Managers’ “Soft Dollar” Credits Are Entitled to “Customer” Priority in Lehman SIPA Liquidation

When Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008, hundreds of money managers that used its brokerage arm, Lehman Brothers Inc. (Lehman), to execute trades were left with unspent “soft dollar” commission credits.  In the Lehman liquidation proceeding, a number of those managers claimed that they were “customers” of Lehman with respect to those soft dollar balances within the meaning of the Securities Investor Protection Act of 1970 (SIPA).  Brokerage “customers” are entitled to priority in a SIPA liquidation over the claims of unsecured creditors of the brokerage firm.  The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York (Bankruptcy Court) recently ruled on whether the money managers’ claims for “soft dollar” credit balances represent “customer” claims under SIPA or whether such claims must be treated as general unsecured claims.  This article summarizes the background in this case and the Bankruptcy Court’s decision and reasoning.

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