Lehman: Doomed By Short Term Funding

Amongst the items coming out of the FCIC hearings last week were new docs that revealed exactly how over-reliant LEH was on daily, short term funding to cover their longer terms costs. It was a recipe for disaster, a trailer park in search of a tornado.

Here is the WSJ:

“In looking last week at Lehman’s demise, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission produced testimony and documents that suggest the firm’s short-term funding was a serious problem well before its Sept. 15, 2008 crash. The new Lehman material is a brutal reminder of the flightiness of short-term debt. And it begs the question: Why didn’t Dodd-Frank do more to limit banks’ use of things like repo markets, in which banks take out short-term collateralized loans?

It was in the repo market that Lehman experienced stress from early 2008. J.P. Morgan Chase, which plays a central role in the “triparty” repo market, decided to introduce a reform in early 2008 aimed at making the market safer. The firm decided that borrowers would have to start providing collateral that slightly exceeded the intraday amounts it had advanced them. This extra collateral is called margin. When discussing the change, a Lehman executive called it “a problem,” in a February 2008 email contained in FCIC documents.”

There are many other factors that the FinReform did not address — I have a post coming up on that for the anniversary of LEH’s demise.

What has always mattered most to financial firms are base capital amounts and leverage. Plunging headlong into both residential and CRE funding in a mad dash for profits led to firm’s having too little of the former and too much of the latter. That, in the simplest of terms, is why Lehman died. Everything else written about the deceased is merely noise . . .


Grading Financial Regulatory Reform (June 25th, 2010)

Lessons of Lehman’s Flighty Funding
WSJ, September 7, 2010

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