Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Lehman Docs Show Wall Street Arrogance Led To Financial Collapse

If one wants to understand the full complicity of Wall Street in the Great Recession, look no further than the voluminous package of pre-collapseLehman Brothers documents that have been made available by the law firm Jenner & Block LLP, which has acted as the coroner in the Lehman post-mortem.

Most important, the cache dispels the myth that Dick Fuld, chief executive officer of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., and his close associates were unaware of the risks their business faced in 2007 and 2008. That would be bad enough, but the more devastating reality is that Fuld and his sycophants were warned repeatedly but were blinded by their hubris.

The records confirm, yet again, that the “forces-out-of- our-control” argument we hear from Wall Street leaders is bunk. It is the ill-advised behavior of one banker after another, day in and day out, that leads to the sort of devastating financial crisis we are only now emerging from.

For instance, at a Lehman board meeting in September 2007, according to a copy of the presentation in the data cache, Lehman executives presented a clear summary of the brewing crisis. “The initial tremors were felt at the end of 2006,” the board was told, “when the poor loan performance of sub- prime borrowers began to be a cause for concern in the marketplace. This was evidenced by a gradual spread widening in the asset backed index.” The presentation continued: “The market continued to widen as it became apparent that the performance problems in mortgage loans was not going to abate and was no longer limited to the sub-prime market but also affecting the Alt-A product.”

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