Unrepentant Lehman ex-CEO Fuld says firm 'was not bankrupt'

Thu May 28, 2015 5:45pm EDT
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By Lauren Tara LaCapra

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Six years, seven months and 13 days after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc filed for bankruptcy, its former chief executive, Richard Fuld Jr., is still insisting it did not go broke.

"Lehman Brothers in 2008 was not a bankrupt company," Fuld said at a conference in Manhattan on Thursday, his first such public appearance since the financial crisis for which Lehman's massive Chapter 11 filing marked a tipping point.

During a speech that lasted a little more than 30 minutes, Fuld waxed nostalgic about the history of Lehman Brothers and his career on Wall Street, and ruminated about financial markets and current events.

At times he flashed a sense of humor - joking, for instance, that the beverage he was drinking was not alcoholic and teasing the audience for paying more attention to their lunch than to him. At other times he became emotional, remembering how "dark" it felt in the aftermath of Lehman's bankruptcy, and mimicking the way he looks in the mirror and speaks to himself to boost his confidence.

"Open your heart and love and be loved," he said. "My mother still loves me. She's 96."

But in his comments, Fuld was not humble or contrite. He blamed the financial crisis on a "perfect storm" and characterized Lehman's collapse as something that was largely outside of his control.

"Regardless of what you heard about Lehman's risk management, I had 27,000 risk managers at the firm because they all owned a piece of the firm," he said, referring to Lehman's employees at the time, who he said were all shareholders.

Lehman filed for the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history on September 15, 2008 after a harrowing weekend during which big-bank CEOs and senior government officials tried, but failed, to come up with a rescue plan.   Continued...

Former Lehman Brothers Chairman and CEO Richard Fuld testifies before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission for a hearing about extraordinary government intervention and the recent financial crisis, on Capitol Hill in Washington, September 1, 2010.   REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst