Maxwell's Heirs Face Legal Snarls

The late British media tycoon Robert Maxwell may have bequeathed his heirs some nasty legal trouble, along with debts exceeding $4 billion. Britain's Serious Fraud Office is investigating a complaint by Swiss Bank Corp. concerning a loan agreement Maxwell made just weeks before his death.

The dispute concerns the collateral that a private Maxwell company pledged in return for a $98 million loan from SBC. The bank says the company promised one set of securities but delivered an entirely different and less valuable portfolio.

If SBC's charges hold up, the bank could theoretically force the private Maxwell company into bankruptcy, triggering a collapse of the whole empire. But an SBC banker says that's only a "last resort."

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