Three zeros may mean nothing by themselves, but leaving them off the end of a number is going to cost the nation's largest insurer at least $8 million.
Prudential Insurance Co. of America is offering the payment to settle claims resulting from a clerical error in which a lien it held was listed as worth $92,885 instead of $92,885,000.U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Howard Buschman III heard closing arguments on the proposed settlement Tuesday and is expected to rule within several days.
The case of the missing zeros has become a cause celebre in bankruptcy law circles, pivoting on the question of how much Prudential should be penalized because some people did a poor job of proofreading.
"Why, because of a clerical error, should we give up $92 million-plus? If you were on the other end of this, you'd feel the same way," Prudential spokesman Joseph Vecchione said.
If Buschman knocks down the proposed settlement and decides the lien is only worth $92,885, Prudential would collect only that much. The rest of its claim would be thrown into the pool with other creditors.
Prudential says the clerical error repeated on at least 20 documents, according to Buschman was committed by someone at a law firm it once used, Haight, Gardner, Poor and Havens.
Prudential has said it has not decided whether to file malpractice lawsuits.