BLUNDERS: An $11 Million Typo

An $11 Million Typo

It was a simple clerical error, but it could be the most expensive typo of all time. In 1978 Prudential, the largest insurance company in the U.S., lent $160 million to United States Lines, a shipping firm. As part of the deal, Prudential got a lien on eight ships. In 1986 United States Lines went into bankruptcy proceedings and started selling off assets. Prudential said it was owed nearly $93 million, the value of the lien, from the ships' sale.

Or so the insurance company thought. A close look at the lien documents disclosed that someone had omitted three little zeros,...

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