September 14, 2011
I was in Ireland, staying in a small inn on a coastal bay in the southwest. In New York, financial titans were on the brink, and some fell into the abyss. It was three years ago today that investment bank Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy. Their CEO, Richard Fuld, overplayed his hand, trying to sell his company for far more than it was worth. At that time it was worth close to zero. Thousands of employees lost their jobs and holders of Lehman securities lost hundreds of millions. In another dramatic move, Bank of America agreed to buy Merrill Lynch, saving the nation's largest stockbroker from its own bankruptcy.
In this tale of two companies, Bank of America is still choking on acquisitions made in 2008. Merrill has added some profit to the bank's bottom line, while heaping huge losses on top of its new parent's already-jumbo toxic mortgage heap. The Lehman story is a little better. Bought for pennies in bankruptcy court, Lehman has turned out to be a good deal for buyer Barclay's.
Back in Ireland at the time, the news that reached me was surreal. It didn't help that we had tangible evidence of financial panic. In the little towns of County Clare, most Irish banks had lines of depositors standing on the sidewalks patiently waiting to draw out their Euros and create what bankers fear most: a run. I cut short my trip and headed back to the office.
Three years on, our economy is better, though far from robust. Markets have recovered, but not to their pre-crisis highs. And I am wary every time I go out of town.
(This article contains the current opinions of the author but not necessarily those of Brighton Securities Corp. The author's opinions are subject to change without notice. This blog post is for informational purposes only. Forecasts, estimates, and certain information contained herein should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. References to specific securities and their issuers are for illustrative purposes only and are not intended and should not be interpreted as recommendations to purchase or sell such securities).