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the      collapse of Lehman Brothers

Use the Unit II Template, and include the following information.

Explain      the corporate culture and/or governance of the company or business      organization.

Explain      the failure(s) of ethical leadership in the company that lead to the      event.

  • Discuss      ways the failure might have been avoided.

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Bloomberg Businessweek
The Very Last of L
By Lucca de Paoli
and Jeremy Hill
Illustrations by
Derek Zheng
May 23, 2022
The bank whose collapse marked the beginning of the 2008 financial crisis
is only mostly dead. Meet the people attending to its final remains
Lehman Brothers
Bloomberg Businessweek
Old Lehman swag on EBay
18 years ago for a three-month assignment from his law
firm. Eventually the bank gave him a full-time job at its real
estate finance arm in London.
Then the bank suddenly collapsed.
And he’s still there, almost 14 years later.
It turns out that when global financial institutions die, it
can take a while. These deaths require caretakers. The spirit
of a bank, even in life, is debt, and debts don’t settle easily into a grave. Most of the assets banks own are the debts
of others: the mortgages, commercial loans, and IOUs payable to the bank. On the other side, of course, banks owe
money—to their bond- and noteholders, counter­parties in
financial trades, and a long list of other creditors. Banks
such as Lehman topple over when they suddenly can’t
wring enough cash from their assets to meet their liabilities.
But even after the funeral, all the debts on both sides of
the ledger are still there, and professionals are needed to sort
out who has to pay up and who should be paid—professionals
such as Rattigan, who’s spent years working to eke out value
from property assets the bank held when it went under. On
the morning of Sept. 15, 2008, in the hours after his employer
filed for bankruptcy, Rattigan had no idea if he still had a job.
He came into the office in London’s Canary Wharf, unsure
of whether the doors would even be unlocked, to at least get
his Rolodex. “In the back of your mind, you are also aware
that there’s sometimes scope for people to be retained and
help” with the cleanup, Rattigan says. “But if I was going to be
retained, I had to get back in there and get my face shown.”
He got his wish. PricewaterhouseCoopers accountants,
who’d been brought in to pick up the pieces of Lehman’s
UK arm, needed to tap people who knew where the documents were, where the value was, and how best to maintain
it. Years after almost all of Lehman’s 5,000-strong London
workforce has moved on—the line in their résumés becoming a talking point at job interviews—Rattigan is still making a living from the bank whose fall ushered in the greatest
financial crisis since the Great Depression.
Like many people these past couple of years, Rattigan
has spent long periods working from home. He had to push
aside the clutter in his spare room and stick in a small desk
to continue his work throughout the pandemic. For a while
before the lockdowns, he used a serviced office space in
Mayfair. It’s a posh neighborhood, “not somewhere you
automatically assume a bust bank would go,” he says. But
he says the accommodation was “far from luxurious.” In
any case, he’s outlasted even that lease.
The scant corporeal remnants of Lehman—a few office
spaces, some legal addresses—are scattered around the
globe. There’s a holding company in New York that’s different from the European one Rattigan works for. The
husk of that operation sits on the eighth floor of an elegant
old building that once housed the uptown branch of the
Bowery Savings Bank, before it became a fancy Cipriani
catering hall. Lehman shares a floor with a health education
May 23, 2022
company and a
­software startup.
Two court cases,
one in London and
the other in New
York, are probably
the last substantial
issues that need to
be resolved. They
could linger for
­several more years,
depending on
appeals. But before
the last contract
is signed and the
last key to a rented
office is turned in,
somebody might want to foot the bill for a goodbye cake
and prosecco for Rattigan and others in a loose network of
lawyers, accountants, consultants, and money managers.
They’ve performed one of the weirdest jobs in finance:
­laying Lehman Brothers, finally, to rest.
homeowners caught up in the risky mortgages the
bank bet on and for the millions who lost jobs and economic opportunities in the ­grinding crisis that followed.
But for a select group of people, the saga became the
defining, even positive, turn in their careers.
There’s the federal judge who oversaw the collapse, for
example. James Peck was a relative rookie on the bankruptcy bench when Lehman went under. Deep into the
wee hours a few nights later, in front of an over­flowing
courtroom, he approved the hasty sale of the bank’s brokerage unit to Barclays Plc for $1.75 billion. That deal
ensured the orderly transfer of hundreds of thousands
of customer accounts, saved about 10,000 jobs on Wall
Street, and possibly prevented the global financial system
from spiraling further out of control. Peck, now 76, has
since traveled the globe speaking about the case.
“I probably think about it a little bit every day,” he says.
He’s now head of cross-border restructuring at the giant
Morrison Foerster law firm, which charmingly goes by the
nickname MoFo. He does a lot of mediation work, and a
party to one of those workouts gave him a silver, Lehmanbranded baby rattle. “I learned a tremendous amount and
met wonderfully interesting people all over the planet,”
Peck says, “many of whom are still my friends.”
For others, the winding down of Lehman wasn’t merely
an intellectual adventure; it was lucrative, too. There were
investors who ran not away from, but toward, the record-­
breaking dumpster fire of debt. They bought heavily discounted Lehman bonds and notes—and ground out the
analysis to ensure that in the end they’d get paid back at
a profit. Scott Hartman was one of those. He joined Värde
Bloomberg Businessweek
May 23, 2022
Partners of Minneapolis as a senior analyst a couple of
weeks before Lehman went bust and spent much of the
next five years working on the case. He’s a partner now.
“Lehman is the largest bankruptcy filing ever. Because
of that, it offered the biggest investment opportunity of
nearly any company we could look at,” he says. A specialist
in so-called distressed investments, Värde was interested in
Lehman from the moment it all fell apart. “It’s a long time
working on one thing,” Hartman says. “There’s probably
some element of fatigue, but I’ll look back on this fondly.”
And then there are the lawyers. So many lawyers.
Holders of Lehman debts don’t just wait around to get
paid; they often have to fight for their claims in court. At
the start of a trial last year, Lord Justice Kim Lewison of the
UK’s Court of Appeal remarked that he’d expected, after
years of Lehman cases being heard at almost every level of
the legal system, that all the questions around insolvency
would have already been answered. “My Lord,” replied
Mark Phillips, a lawyer who’s worked on bust companies
for more than three decades. “If every question on insolvency had been answered, it would be a very sorry day.”
report on its demise, Examiner Anton Valukas pinned the
failure not only on junky loans, but also on the loss of faith
from Lehman’s business partners, including other lenders.
The bank had relied too heavily on their confidence, like
a poker pro getting staked by other gamblers. When it disappeared, it was all over for Lehman as a going enterprise.
But that didn’t make all its assets worthless.
Likewise, there were countless knotty questions about
who gets the money recovered from those assets. Say
there were Lehman investors demanding repayment, but
their debts were pegged to the bank’s Netherlands unit.
Did the parent company have to cover the debts of the
Netherlands unit? Even though the bank was deceased, the
stakes of decisions such as these could be enormous for
its living caretakers. If PricewaterhouseCoopers paid out,
say, $100 million to the wrong bondholder, and the court
decided that some other creditor deserved the money first,
the cost was on administrators’ heads.
Lehman owed $613 billion when it went under. That’s
a lot of angry, anxious creditors. There were also its customers. In addition to lending and borrowing, banks and
brokerages hold on to a lot of other people’s stuff, such as
their stocks and bonds in different companies, so another
fourth US ­presidential administration, began the
complex job was to pick through those and get them into
moment its lawyers filed a petition for Chapter 11 protecsafe hands at other firms. One member of the team of lawtion. Chapter 11 is designed to give a business that can’t
yers and accountants assigned to the cleanup remembers
pay its debts breathing room to figure out what to do next.
a client approaching him in Lehman’s London office tower
Sometimes the process is straightforward. When, say, a
right after the collapse. This client had somehow evaded
chain of clothing stores goes under, the work to
security, demanding to know where his bonds
be done is clear: Tally the value of inventory, sell
were, brandishing his certificate as proof of what
How a
it off, and then give that money to whomever the
he owned.
Waterfall Works
retailer is indebted to. Maybe the whole business When creditors are repaid,
About that same time, on the seventh floor,
pours down like bubbly
can be sold in one shot, making things even easier. cash on
was a run on the on-site snack shop. Staffers
stacked glasses.
When a global bank fails, the process gets gnarly
were ­
p anic-buying fruit and
Holders of senior
bars, afraid the payin a hurry. Instead of shirts and shoes, the assets to
and secured debt are
the most likely to get
be tallied are abstractions. What’s a crummy mortgage
ment cards they’d loaded with
their fill.
cash would become worthless.
worth during a housing crisis?
Others hold
Very little. But how little, specif- subordinated paper
Some returned to their desk with
are entitled only to
ically? And won’t that be offset andwhat
It was a microcosm of what
spills over.
by the insurance purchased on
Lehman’s administrators would be doing
the mortgage? Well, not exactly that
for the next 14 years: answering questions
mortgage, of course, because these
from people who had claims on Lehman—
insurance contracts are bets on a basnot lunch cards, but bonds—and then decidket of mortgages designed to mirror
ing how many bananas they could
the ones the bank owns. What can
give them.
Lehman get for those?
What made Lehman espeHERE ARE PEOPLE WHO
cially odd was its pile of good
get into r­unning trouassets. It had plenty of terbled businesses on purpose.
“Professional services” comparible stuff but wasn’t alone
in that. Almost every major
nies such as Alvarez & Marsal,
investment bank at the time
based in New York, sometimes
At the bottom of
had a high-risk model such as Lehman’s. (And many
act a bit like temp agencies, providing C-suite execa credit structure,
survived only after a huge intervention by the govutives and expertise to companies that have gone
some investors may
get nothing.
ernment.) In the 2,000-page court-­commissioned
bankrupt or are trying to turn themselves around.
Bloomberg Businessweek
The day after Lehman failed, A&M’s Daniel Ehrmann
was working as the interim chief financial officer of Spiegel
Brands, an ailing ­purveyor of ­women’s clothing that was
still fighting a losing battle against the emergence of online
competitors. Bryan Marsal, co-founder of A&M, called him
in the middle of a meeting: Get to Lehman’s New York office
by 2 p.m.
Ehrmann then spent six years helping untangle Lehman’s
wreckage from New York. He became co-head of derivatives
and head of international at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.
“When I lie on my deathbed, I definitely will think about
Lehman,” Ehrmann says. “Not only, I hope—but it was six fascinating years of my life, right?” The new, post-­bankruptcy
US arm of Lehman—essentially a portfolio manager and
sales lot for used financial assets—would have a few hundred
employees for a while. There are only 20 left in the US now.
Ehrmann and his counterparts in Europe and Asia faced a
conundrum. They could sell all the stuff that Lehman owned
quickly, but that would likely mean accepting deep-discount
prices, leaving a small pot of money to distribute to creditors.
That’s another way a bank failure is different from a normal
bankruptcy. Physical assets can go bad quickly. Bananas rot;
dresses and suits go out of fashion. Financial assets caught up
in a panic may actually improve with time, as those handling
the wind-down sort through the mess and scrape out value.
“What the US proceeding did on Day 1 was say, ‘We’re
going to preserve the assets. We’re not going to fire-sale
these assets today,’ ” Ehrmann says. “If we fire-sale them,
we’re going to get cents on the dollar.” Instead they decided
to wait for the crisis to end and work on the assets, even
if the process took years. The strategy worked. In the UK,
for example, Rattigan says he eventually managed to sell a
clutch of commercial real estate loans valued at £50 million
May 23, 2022
($62 million) in the heat
of the crisis for more than
three times that amount.
Many hedge funds made
a similar bet. In a major
bankruptcy, a company’s
original bond- and noteholders often try to cut
their losses quickly. The
typical mutual fund manager isn’t in the business of
hiring restructuring advisers and wading through the
bankruptcy court morass
and then, years later, getting some of the fund’s
money back. Those investors do exactly the thing
Ehrmann says he was avoiding: They sell their bonds—
that is, their claims on
the money Lehman owed
them—to someone else at a cheap price. In short, they
take their lumps and move on. The buyers are usually
specialized distressed-­asset investors such as Värde who
are willing to wait and to haggle.
Värde, which means “value” in Swedish, manages more
than $13 billion and is typical of the type of investor that
looks for these deals. Some call distressed-asset funds vultures. Hartman, the money manager, bristles at the idea
that he’s in any way feasting on a carcass. “I personally
have never understood the vulture reference,” he says. “No
one is forced to sell or buy anything. That is their choice.”
(Ehrmann, for his part, in 2015 joined King Street, a hedge
fund that was a big player in Lehman’s discounted debt.)
Whatever they’re called, after years of analysis, court
fights, and late nights, the funds that bought Lehman securities have done well. “For distressed investors, this is
what you live for,” Hartman says. For example, one group
of investors, including the hedge funds
Paulson & Co. and Fir
Tree Partners, bought
loads of Lehman debt
for about 20¢ on the
dollar, according to
court records. At that
price, a $10 million bet
on the debts eventually paid out more than
$20 million, based on
distribution data filed
with the bankruptcy
court, with much of
the recovery coming
Bloomberg Businessweek
May 23, 2022
in the first few years. It’s hard to get a Better Than You’d Have Thought
crannies of the Lehman estate. In the
complete ­picture of how much has been Share of outstanding Lehman debts repaid
Netherlands, enterprising investors
recouped across the divided Lehman
found billions of dollars of bonds that
empire, but one important slice of the
the bank had tailored to buyers who
parent company’s creditors has recovwanted to make bets on other markets.
ered close to half of what was owed, for
Notes had been linked to the perfor25
a total of almost $40 billion, and twice Initial estimated recovery 21.1%
mance of Asian stocks, or the price of
gold. You could buy these in bulk and
what was originally forecast. A UK judge
make money.
in 2019 noted some European debt holders had ultimately earned interest of 8%
One of the last open items in the
entire case is a wonky court fight
a year over a decade.
over bond insurance. For a decade,
Other creditors may fare even better.
One of the most stark examples is the
Lehman’s London subsidiary has been
so-called Ecaps trade. The Ecaps were
clashing with Assured Guaranty Ltd.,
which had provided it with a kind of
notes Lehman issued that paid investors
an attractive yield but came with a catch: They were very
insurance against default on bundles of subprime mortgage
low down on what’s known in the bankruptcy trade as
bonds. Put simply, Lehman is trying to cash in on the very
the “waterfall.” When a company can’t pay its bills, who
securities that helped fuel its demise. Lehman contends
gets what is determined by how high they’re positioned as
that its creditors are owed about $500 million; Assured says
money flows downward. Imagine a pyramid of Champagne
that according to its math, Lehman actually owes it money
glasses, with a waiter pouring from a bottle at the top. The
as a “termination” fee.
senior creditors, who own the glasses at the peak, get their
There are easier, if more modest, ways to scrape up
money from Lehman’s death. An active market exists for
cash first, and then excess spills to glasses beneath them,
old Lehman merchandise, such as branded duffel bags,
layer by layer. If there’s a lot of cash gushing down, everyone gets some. But if it’s a trickle, holders of those Ecaps
polo shirts, and even pens. A retired handyman from New
and other notes might get nothing.
York bought a “truckload” of Lehman leftovers—some were
One of the main differences between Lehman’s UK
still in transit from China—for $5,000 in the wake of the colarm and most other insolvencies is that Rattigan and his
lapse. He’s been hawking them on EBay ever since, sparkcolleagues wrung out much more money than expected.
ing bidding wars over branded hip bags. “I bought it all on a
That outcome made the fights among creditors about
hunch thinking people would want a piece of history,” said
where they stood in a waterfall all the more important
the seller, who identified himself in an email as Ric Cam.
and fiercely contested. It isn’t unusual for trials to decide
“Let’s say I made my investment back.”
who should be paid and in what order in big insolvencies,
but with Lehman there were three waterfall cases in the UK
alone. Many of the most experienced and expensive lawand some of the last people out the door will very probyers in London have represented hedge funds, Lehman’s
ably be those handling Lehman’s tax affairs. Jackie Dolby
US holding company, and even the government tax authorjoined the bank in London in 1989, balancing her job with
ities, all arguing they were entitled to the last remnants of
studying for her accountancy exams at night school. By the
Lehman’s wealth.
time the firm collapsed, she had become head of European
A UK Court of Appeal judge ruled that the Ecaps bucket
corporate tax and planning. Few know the plumbing of
deserved to go higher up the waterfall. In the years after
Lehman’s European outpost as well as Dolby: She was a witLehman’s collapse, some Ecaps notes were considered
ness in one of the Ecaps cases, having worked on the minuso valueless that they were given away, according to tradtiae of Lehman’s UK debt. For the administrator at PwC,
ing certificates seen by Bloomberg. Now it’s possible that
her knowledge is like gold dust. She works two days a week,
if things go well for holders—and that’s a big if—the notes
sometimes more, mostly from her home on England’s east
could be paid in full. For the few who bought early and sat
coast. After the insolvency, when banking became a dirty
tight, a free scrap of paper might yield millions of dollars.
word in the popular imagination, she was a little embarEven in the sometimes extremely lucrative business of
rassed to say she worked at Lehman.
buying bruised debts, the Ecaps trade is considered remarkNow Dolby feels a certain pride that she stuck around
able. Robert Southey, a broker who’s traded Lehman’s
this long. Even after all the money is paid out from
debts, estimates that some traders could have gotten
Lehman’s UK entity, she will still have to do its taxes in the
40 times their money back. “It’s super unusual that someyear after, a final b
­ enediction to close out affairs with the
thing that’s considered zero within the whole structure
ultimate financial authorities. “When we went into insolrecovers anything,” he says. That’s bondspeak for “wow.”
vency,” Dolby says, “the PwC people said, ‘You will be
Other oddities emerged from various nooks and
there to turn the lights off.’ ”
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EBSCO Publishing : eBook Collection (EBSCOhost) – printed on 12/16/2022 11:50 AM via
AN: 2959721 ; Oonagh McDonald.; Lehman Brothers : A Crisis of Value
Account: s3921192
2016. Manchester University Press. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except fair uses permitted under U.S. or applicable copyright law.
Lehman Brothers
A Crisis of Value
EBSCOhost – printed on 12/16/2022 11:50 AM via . All use subject to
EBSCOhost – printed on 12/16/2022 11:50 AM via . All use subject to
Lehman Brothers
A Crisis of Value
Oonagh McDonald
Manchester University Press
EBSCOhost – printed on 12/16/2022 11:50 AM via . All use subject to
Copyright © Oonagh McDonald 2016
The right of Oonagh McDonald to be identified as the author of this work has been
asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Published by Manchester University Press
Altrincham Street, Manchester M1 7JA
This work is published subject to a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No
Derivatives Licence. You may share this work for non-commercial purposes only, provided
you give attribution to the copyright holder and the publisher. For permission to publish
commercial versions please contact Manchester University Press.
British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data applied for
ISBN 978 1 7849 93405 hardback
ISBN 978 1 5261 00580 open access
First published 2016
The publisher has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for any external
or third-party internet websites referred to in this book, and does not guarantee that any
content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.
Typeset by
RefineCatch Limited, Bungay, Suffolk
EBSCOhost – printed on 12/16/2022 11:50 AM via . All use subject to
1 From Cotton Trader to Investment Banker: 1844–2008
2 From Hubris to Nemesis: January to September 2008
3 The Fateful Weekend
4 Regulating the ‘Big Five’
5 The Largest Bankruptcy in American History
6 The Destruction of Value
7 Lehman’s Valuation of Its Assets
8 Measuring Value
9 Monitoring Value
10 Chasing a Chimera?
Appendix 1 The Lehman Brothers Board of Directors in 2007
Appendix 2 The Lehman Brothers Corporate Structure
EBSCOhost – printed on 12/16/2022 11:50 AM via . All use subject to
The purpose of this book is to explain the fundamental causes of the bank’s
failure, including the inadequacy of the regulatory and supervisory framework.
For some, it was the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act that was the overriding
cause, not just of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, but of the ?nancial crisis as a
whole. The argument of this book is that the cause is partly to be found both in
weak and ine?ective regulation and also in a programme of regulation and
supervision that was simply not ?t for the purpose. Lehman Brothers certainly
contributed to its own demise. When the company pursued its more aggressive
policies to increase its pro?ts and its market share, it moved away from purchasing
residential real estate loans, even when these were subprime, and packaging
them into mortgage backed securities, which were then sold on. From 2006
onwards, its more aggressive strategy focused on commercial real estate,
leveraged loans and private equity. Its move into commercial real estate increased
the levels of risk for the company, with increasingly illiquid assets. Dick Fuld, the
chairman and CEO, and his senior management, ignored the increased risks,
choosing to rely on over-valuations of the ?rm’s assets.
One of the continuing puzzles is why Lehman Brothers was allowed to fail.
The main players in that decision, Henry Paulson, Timothy Geithner and
Chairman Bernanke, have generally claimed that the Federal Reserve did not
have the legal powers to rescue Lehman Brothers in the absence of a buyer for
the company. This explanation was always di?cult to reconcile with the decision
to bail out AIG two days later.
That is not the only issue to be considered. The failure of Lehman Brothers
has many facets, and each of those is examined in the second part of the book.
Much has been said about the ‘destruction of value’ in the ?nancial press and
academic analyses. Trillions of dollars ‘disappeared’ through plummeting asset
prices and, as some would argue, the crisis entailed not the destruction of ‘real’
value but the exposure of ?ctitious or virtual capital and arti?cial value. The
appointed examiner for the bankruptcy proceedings stated that ‘valuation is
central to the question of Lehman’s solvency’. That was the conclusion of his
Report, which is over 2,200 pages, based on collecting over ?ve million
documents. An analysis of some of the key elements in the Report, as well
EBSCOhost – printed on 12/16/2022 11:50 AM via . All use subject to
as other documents and reports, leads to the conclusion that this is indeed
the case.
However, this opens up the questi

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