Lehman Brothers was allowed to fail last weekend, as U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulsen drew a line in the quicksand and said the United States would not soak up Lehman’s questionable investments. Paulsen told Wall Street to come up with its own solution and its answer was a Chapter 11 filing by the 158-year brokerage early Monday.
The move came after Lehman’s last attempt at survival came and went amid much derision from the analysts’ universe. Lehman would have divided itself into a good bank and bad bank, selling its tattered real estate investments at a deep discount in a deal under which it would finance a big part of the transaction. It would have sold a majority stake in its primo holding, Neuberger Berman. It would have turned itself into a much leaner Lehman.
But neither analysts nor investors believed the story. How much does the storied brokerage owe? The Chapter 11 filing says its debt tops $600 billion. Wall Street held a harrowing emergency trading session on Sunday, September 14, in an attempt to smooth the potential aftershocks of the Lehman failure; the session included financial market and commodity derivatives. Meanwhile, 10 banks reportedly agreed to contribute to a $70-$100 billion emergency fund designed to limit the damage from Lehman’s liquidation.