No one misses Lehman Brothers.
Yeah, I said it.
On September 15th 2008, the investment bank filed for bankruptcy after 6 months of protestations by Dick Fuld, Erin Callan and the rest of the brain trust that all was well at 745 Seventh Avenue in Times Square.
Enough has and will be written about the causes but I’ll sum it up for those who love delicious irony:
Lehman became a global powerhouse because of real estate and fixed income, Lehman went bankrupt because of real estate and fixed income.
If you’re reading this from your new/old offices at Barclays Capital Markets, save your breath – I’m not interested in how profitable the investment banking and trading businesses used to be and how you guys got screwed.
The fact of the matter is, without the absurd risks taken in the name of earnings growth and market share, your trading and banking businesses would never have grown to where they were.
Live by the gun, die by the gun.
The fate of Lehman’s profitable units was inextricably linked to the business units that bit off more than they could chew. This is the exact reason why I have been against the paying of bonuses to employees at failed organizations who happened to have run a profitable division amidst the red ink. They were only profitable because of the scale they were blessed with, directly proportional to the size of the mother ship (parent company).
You can’t and shouldn’t have it both ways.
One year later, from living and working on The Street, I can say emphatically that there is much more nostalgia for Bear Stearns than there is for Lehman Brothers. This is ironic because during its lifespan, Bear was always looked at as “the outsider” of the bulge bracket firms.
Lehman’s final months were a mixture of unjustified hubris and calculated deceit. The lengths that were gone to in order to keep up appearances were, in retrospect, extraordinary. Fuld’s game of footsie with sovereign wealth funds and Korean banks should have moved past the foreplay stage way before last September if he really wanted to “save the firm”.
Instead, it turned out that he was more interested in saving his reputation.
How’d that work out?
As big and as important as the average Lehmanite thought their firm was, one year after it’s disappearance, I don’t know a soul who cares.