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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Lehman Brothers, la faillite

by Bruno Odent

Lehman Brothers goes belly up

Translated Saturday 20 September 2008, by Henry Crapo

The United States: The fourth largest bank in the country is struck head on by the financial crisis, which continues to spread throughout the banking sector.

The financial crisis continues to spread panic on Wall Street and throughout the banking sector in the United States. Lehman Brothers, one of the largest business banks in the country and one of the global leaders in that sector, has been heavily struck by the crisis that touches not only the real estate market (via the sub-primes) but extends also to other sectors of the credit market (credit cards, etc.). Suddenly, the enterprise shows record losses and devaluation of assets (evaluated at 13.5 billion dollars, or 10 billion euros).

In order to meet their obligations, officers of the bank have tried to recapitalize their company. In vain. The Lehman Brothers’ stock has lost more than 70% of its value in the space of several weeks, and there is no longer any investor ready to bet a penny on the company that, just one year ago, was the flagship of the banking sector, directed with an iron hand by Richard Fuld, nick-named "The Gorilla", and presented by market analysts as one of the most prestigious managers in place in Manhattan (see l’Humanité for 22nd August). [1]

Rejecting the idea of increasing its capital, the bank sought to sell some of its assets in order to obtain the needed liquidity. But that operation also failed, the indebtedness of Lehman Brothers being judged excessive. In despair, they started to look for a potential buyer to take over the entire group. It seems that a deal was imposed by the U.S, administration, concerned that it could not continue indefinitely the string of bail-outs, like the nationalization of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the beginning of the week. Because other mastodons of the banking world are also seriously menaced, the Washington Mutual, for instance.

The Federal Reserve would be forced to pump in whatever liquidity the bank needs, taking over some part of its garbage debts (which means turning the US Government printing presses to produce the necessary Monopoly money), in return for a promise by the "Gorilla", still reticent to yield up the totality of his assets to a conglomerate of buyers.

Translator’s note:

[1(http://www.humanite.fr/2008-08-22_Politique_Sale-temps-pour-le-Gorille) This article, like all good journalism, is still highly pertinent. We, therefore, have translated it for our English speaking readers, under the title: Tough times in store for "The Gorilla".

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