Lehman

Lehman Brothers... Where Are They Now?

Mere months after the subprime mortgage market brought down Lehman Brothers in 2008, Richard S. Fuld Jr., the bank’s former chairman and CEO, referred to himself as "the most hated man in America.". As IBT's Lisa Mahapatra notes, Fuld wasn’t wrong. He’d played fast and loose with a lot of people’s money, lost it all and was the perfect scapegoat for all of America to pin its economic troubles on. Back in 2007, when the subprime mortgage market first began to stumble, in an email to the bank’s then chief strategy officer David Goldfarb, Fuld wrote, "I agree we need some help - but the Bros always wins!" His words, Mahapatra adds, were the opposite of prophetic. When Lehman Brothers collapsed, it took Fuld’s career down with it. And he wasn’t the only one - former Chief Operating Officer Joseph M. Gregory and former Chief Financial Officer Erin Callan haven’t worked in finance for years now...

Five Years After Lehman, BIS Ex-Chief Economist Warns "It's Worse This Time"

The froth is back. As we noted yesterday, corporate leverage has never been higher - higher now than when the Fed warned of froth, and as the BIS (following their "party's over" rant 3 months ago) former chief economist now warns, "this looks like to me like 2007 all over again, but even worse." The share of "leveraged loans" or extreme forms of credit risk, used by the poorest corporate borrowers, has soared to an all-time high of 45% - 10 percentage points higher than at the peak of the crisis in 2007. As The Telegraph reports, ex-BIS Chief Economist William White exclaims, "All the previous imbalances are still there. Total public and private debt levels are 30pc higher as a share of GDP in the advanced economies than they were then, and we have added a whole new problem with bubbles in emerging markets that are ending in a boom-bust cycle." Crucially, the BIS warns, nobody knows how far global borrowing costs will rise as the Fed tightens or “how disorderly the process might be... the challenge is to be prepared." This means, in their view, "avoiding the tempatation to believe the market will remain liquid under stress - the illusion of liquidity."

BAML Warns "If The US Economy Does Not Significantly Accelerate Now, It Never Will"

Significant monetary stimulus, the end of fiscal austerity, a booming housing market, a cheap dollar, record corporate cash balances... BofAML warns - if the US economy does not significantly accelerate in coming quarters, it never will. Crucially, they note, asset prices will not do as well in the next 5 years, no matter what the “nouveau bulls” say. Central banks will be less generous, corporations less selfish. And when excess liquidity is removed it will get "CRASHy" as we discussed previously. In the meantime, five years after Lehman, Wall Street has soared, but Main Street has soured.

Guest Post: 5 Years Of Financial Non-Reform

Five years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered the largest global financial crisis since the Great Depression, outsize banking sectors have left economies shattered in Ireland, Iceland, and Cyprus. Banks in Italy, Spain, and elsewhere are not lending enough. China’s credit binge is turning into a bust. In short, the world’s financial system remains dangerous and dysfunctional. Worse, despite years of debate, no consensus about the nature of the financial system’s problems – much less how to fix them – has emerged. And that appears to reflect the banks’ political power. Unfortunately, despite the enormous harm from the financial crisis, little has changed in the politics of banking. Too many politicians and regulators put their own interests and those of “their” banks ahead of their duty to protect taxpayers and citizens. We must demand better.

Guest Post: Did Capitalism Fail?

Until six days before Lehman Brothers collapsed five years ago, the ratings agency Standard & Poor’s maintained the firm’s investment-grade rating of “A.” Moody’s waited even longer, downgrading Lehman one business day before it collapsed. How could reputable ratings agencies – and investment banks – misjudge things so badly? Regulators, bankers, and ratings agencies bear much of the blame for the crisis. But the near-meltdown was not so much a failure of capitalism as it was a failure of contemporary economic models’ understanding of the role and functioning of financial markets – and, more broadly, instability – in capitalist economies. Yet the mainstream of the economics profession insists that such mechanistic models retain validity.

What A Difference A Decade Makes

Even as the popular press if focused on the 5 year anniversary of Lehman, we decided to go back double that period, and take a look at what happened to the developed world economy in the past decade, starting with 2003. What we found was interesting.

Frontrunning: September 13

  • U.S., Russia to push for new Syria peace talks (Reuters)
  • Elite Syrian Unit Scatters Chemical Arms Stockpile (WSJ)
  • Obama to nominate Summers as Fed chief: Nikkei (Reuters)
  • Boehner Wants Joint Talks on Debt, Budget (WSJ)
  • House Republicans go for broke in fiscal battles (Reuters)
  • Pimco, BlackRock Together Received More Than a Quarter of Verizon's $49 Billion Bond Deal (WSJ)
  • Insane financial system lives post-Lehman (Gillian Tett)
  • JPM to add $2.5 billion to its litigation reserves in the second half of the year (WSJ)
  • Goldman’s Zurich offices visited over working-hours complaint (FT)

Five Years Later: 18 Dollars Of Debt For Every Dollar Of GDP; Total G7 Debt/GDP: 440%

With everyone focused on the 5th anniversary of the Lehman failure, we are taking a quick look at how the world's developed (G7) nations have fared since 2008, and just what the cost to restore "stability" has been. In a nutshell: the G7 have added around $18tn of consolidated debt to a record $140 trillion, relative to only $1tn of nominal GDP activity and nearly $5tn of G7 central bank balance sheet expansion (Fed+BoJ+BoE+ECB). In other words, over the past five years in the developed world, it took $18 dollars of debt (of which 28% was provided by central banks) to generate $1 of growth. For all talk of "deleveraging" G7 consolidated debt has been at a record high 440% for the past four years. So in the G7, which is a good proxy for the developed world, debt continues to increase whilst nominal growth remains extremely low thus ensuring that the deleveraging process has yet to start. As Deutsche Bank states, "at best we’re stabilising the ratio at or around record highs."