From Venerable to Vulnerable

U.S. Helps Lehman Go Up for Sale
Regulators Are Seeking a Weekend Deal Not Involving Public Money

By David Cho, Heather Landy and Neil Irwin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, September 12, 2008; A01
The Federal Reserve and Treasury Department are actively helping Lehman Brothers put itself up for sale, and officials are hoping a deal will be in place this weekend before the Asian markets open on Monday, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The government is looking for an agreement that would not involve public money. One scenario that is emerging includes multiple suitors acquiring different pieces of the venerable investment bank, which has suffered staggering losses from its bets on real estate and mortgages.
Henry and Emanuel Lehman would not be happy with the current state of their investment bank, but then 158 years is a pretty good run in American business. Founders (of nations as well as companies) are not often pleased with what their heirs do with once-grand hopes and dreams.

The lesson (if there is a lesson) would be that business cycles have their ups and downs, but youth and greed can run a century and a half into the dumper in a matter of months. March’s $44.95 became yesterday’s four dollars and change. TGIF.
It being another (almost) weekend–and Freddie Fannie having played themselves out last weekend–there is much to hope for, but not much solace, in it being Friday. Wall Street has become a Friday phenomenon, a case of the oldest and most famous edging out the newer and less pretentious at the rescue desk of Henry Paulson.
All eyes are on Henry.
It also pays to be a player on a par with Goldman Sachs, Paulson’s old fishing hole and the source of many a sterling and crystal lunch, divvying up the rewards of economic gluttony over steak tartare and brandy. The big boys got very big indeed and, unlike 1929, if we can keep them in their second homes and from jumping out of windows, we will pay any price, bear any burden, etc., etc.
If there has been one change worthy of mention over the nearly eighty years since Black Friday, it’s that the windows no longer open out on modern-day Wall Street, so it’s harder to jump. But the beat goes on and the beaten are the same as the last time out–taxpayers and workers.
The world no longer looks to America for guidance in globalization or capitalism.
They now to look to us (trembling slightly) to see what we announce late on Friday and accomplish over the weekend, while the common man is out mowing his lawn and occupied with football.

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