March 13, 2010

The Dylan Ratigan does a pretty good job of explaining the 2200 page report that exposes the Lehman scandal. It shines a bright light on why we need financial regulations and serious reforms.

The NY Times:

The bankruptcy examiner’s report filed by Anton R. Valukas on the 2008 demise of Lehman Brothers discusses some accounting gimmicks that are eerily reminiscent of how Enron tried to prop up its balance sheet back in 2001 before it collapsed. Both companies appear to have played right along the edge of properly accounting for transactions designed to make them appear much stronger than they turned out to be, becoming steadily more aggressive as they teetered on the brink of ruin.

The examiner’s report discusses potential claims that the bankruptcy trustee can bring against Lehman’s former officers and outside advisers and does not mention potential government law enforcement action.

Reading his report, however, gives strong indications that at a minimum the Securities and Exchange Commission is likely to pursue civil charges for securities fraud, and that criminal charges are certainly possible against Lehman’s former top executives. The examiner’s report gives us a new term for hiding problems on a corporate balance sheet that may become common parlance: “Repo 105.” Starting in 2001, Lehman Brothers engaged in repurchase agreements, called “repos,” which were described by DealBook as “what amounts to a short-term loan, exchanging collateral for cash up front, and then unwinding the trade as soon as overnight.”

Read here for more of the story.

Market Watch:

The report, which runs to 2,200 pages, said former top officers including ex-CEO Dick Fuld and Chief Financial Officers Chris O'Meara, Erin Callan and Ian Lowitt could face legal claims for negligence of breach of duty.

Auditor Ernst & Young could also potentially face a professional malpractice claim for not challenging Lehman's non-disclosure of the off-balance sheet transactions, the report said. See full story on the Lehman report.

Lehman's collapse in 2008 really got things going.

Lehman Brothers, the fourth-largest US investment bank, has filed for bankruptcy protection, dealing a blow to the fragile global financial system.

The news led to sharp falls in share prices around the world, and officials took measures to reassure markets. Lehman had incurred losses of billions of dollars in the US mortgage market.


US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said the US was "working through a difficult period in our financial markets right now as we work off some of the past excesses".

But he added: "The American people can remain confident in the soundness and resilience of our financial system."

However he warned that uncertainty remained and it was likely that there would be further "rough spots" ahead before the market was corrected.

Turmoil would continue in financial markets until the housing correction was completed, he added.

Mr Paulson said he was committed to working with regulators in the US and abroad, as well as policymakers in Congress to take the necessary steps "to maintain the stability and orderliness of our financial markets".

But he gave no details of what such steps might mean.

And remember these magical words by President George Bush?

Earlier in the day President George W Bush said: "In the long term I am confident that our financial markets are flexible and resilient and can deal with these adjustments."

This BBC article brings back really bad memories, but I hope they remind the Congress to get financial reform done, now.

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