FRANKFURT Jan 17 Germany's Federal Court of
Justice has ruled that investors can sue Standard & Poor's for
failing to adequately reflect the deteriorating financial health
of Lehman Bros in its rating assessment shortly before the bank
The court admitted a case brought by Juergen Hillebrand, a
German pensioner who bought a Lehman investment note called an
"Alpha Express Zertifikat", a product whose performance was tied
to Lehman's credit risk, his lawyer Jens-Peter Gieschen at law
firm KWAG in Bremen, Germany, said on Thursday.
It's the first time a German court has admitted a case
brought by retail investors against rating agencies, potentially
opening the door to further claims.
S&P, part of McGraw-Hill Cos Inc , failed in
its duty to make a credible ratings assessment because the notes
were given a good score only days before the Lehman insolvency
in September 2008, Gieschen said.
A spokeswoman for S&P in Germany said: "We believe that
these claims are without merit."
One of the reasons Hillebrand bought 30,000 euros
($40,100)worth of the Lehman notes in May 2008 was the fact that
they were rated A+, giving him the impression it was a
conservative investment, Gieschen said.
Nikolaus Boemcke, a Munich-based attorney specialised in
capital markets litigation with law firm Roessner, said: "With
this decision the court has opened a new way to help Lehman
The Federal Court decision dates from Dec. 13, 2012 and was
communicated to Hillebrand on Jan. 14, Gieschen said.