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Small Excel Goof Up Can Lead to Serious Legal Trouble

“Excel error leaves Barclays with unwanted Lehman assets'

Barclays Capital is left with unwanted Lehman assets from a spreadsheet mistake in a legal document. 179 contracts were erroneously included in a Barclays' purchase agreement relating to its acquisition of Lehman Brothers”.

According to the news, the error was caused by a junior employee who unknowingly unhid rows of Lehman's assets not to be included in the contract when he did a global re-formatting of the worksheet. The error was discovered more than a week later and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Barclays Capital's law firm filed a relief motion asking the court to exclude the misrepresented contracts from the deal.

John Cant, who heads MPI Europe a financial consulting firm says, “Excel is a powerful tool. Like a chainsaw, in the hands of a skilled operator it is hugely effective - but in untrained or rushed hands and without the proper safety equipment it can be positively dangerous.”

This Barclays Capital goof up could have been the result of the employee's lack of proper knowledge about spreadsheet. In the hands of a well trained user, excel can become a powerful business analytical tool. In untrained hands, it is merely a computer calculator.

On hindsight, the error could have been avoided if some extra steps were taken. The sender could have taken a few more seconds to copy only the wanted assets into another worksheet to minimize the risk. This could have been done by using Excel Goto Special Function which can easily select the nearly 100 rows with more than 24,000 individual cells in a few simple steps. It will ensure that the worksheet contains only assets to be included in the contract and make the reformatting completely harmless.

Like any other task, it is equally important that an employee is well trained in Excel. One mistake can not only lead to a lot of extra time consumption in correcting it but also a lot of legal harassment as in this case.

Always keeping your staff well-trained would signify that your firm is more risk efficient and less exposed to disasters caused by dearth of skills. Prevention is always better than cure.

To read more about it, visit Fine Extra.

Jason Khoo
Author of "Excel Secrets for Highly Effectively Marketers",
Chief Trainer of everydayExcel Business Lab Pte Ltd.

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Yours Sincerely,

Jason Khoo
Chief Trainer
everydayExcel Business Lab Pte Ltd
Author of "Hidden Secrets of Data Analysis with Excel" and 
"Excel Secrets for Highly Effective Marketers"


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