A senior investment banker at Lehman's, describes what it felt like to be in the belly of the beast, when his world and that of those around him spun off its axis on September 12, 2008. It explains why action should be taken to ensure no one person or small group should ever again be in a position to dismantle the system, bringing down major institutions and threatening the collapse of the entire global system.
"To me, as a multi-decade, veteran Lehman investment banker, the breathtaking death of my firm appeared impossible as little as three days ahead of the bankruptcy filing. Not only did I consider our "master of the universe" firm invincible, but, like my colleagues, when it became clear we were in deep trouble, it was unfathomable that the US government could misstep so foolishly as to let any bulge bracket investment bank simply fail. The worst case seemed to be the Bear Stearns route. "But Henry Paulson, Treasury Secretary, is a Bush appointee, and so like other cabinet members, a free agent, ruling his fiefdom like a Tsar. He in effect gave his singular nod to the dissolution of a century and a half old firm, and the largest US bankruptcy ever, launching a sucker punch to global financial markets and sending an already weak economy into a tailspin". This book sheds light on the perfect, complex storm that led to Lehman's collapse and the ensuing global consequences. It includes a brief history of Lehman, highlighting certain notable events, including a previous near collapse, the rise of Richard Fuld and the "one-firm" culture, the repeated mistake made by providers of credit, inventing new financings -- rationalising that while profitable, these risky endeavours are actually not risky, more specifically sub-prime mortgages and Lehman's role, as well as an internal battle over Lehman's embrace of a massive real estate book, the emergence of Lehman as a top tier firm, the unravelling that began with the sub-prime meltdown, and gained vigour with the fall of Bear, and the consequences of Lehman's fall.