Northern Rock shareholders High Court challenge

Former Northern Rock shareholders are challenging the UK government’s nationalisation terms in the British courts claiming that the Treasury’s conditions will result in little or no compensation. The case, which is expected to run for three days, is being brought by SRM Global, RAB Capital, and a group of private shareholders with the support of Legal & General, the Rock’s  third-largest institutional shareholder.

The shareholders are attempting to overturn an earlier ruling against them; their argument is that the company was not worthless as the Bank of England had stepped forward with a significant funding programme for Northern Rock, something which the shareholders believe would not have happened if it was not “a going concern”. When the bank was nationalised in February 2008, the Treasury instructed independent valuers to assume that “Northern Rock is unable to continue as a going concern and is in administration”. Shareholders claim the wording prejudices the independent review by accountants BDO Stoy Hayward.

If the appeal is lost it is widely believed the shareholder will take their fight to the European Court of Human Rights in order to force a review the rights and obligations of shareholders and governments.

Separately the UK government is understood to be considering a sale of Northern Rock and disinvesting the taxpayers’ holding in the company.

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