During my long slog through the entire Lehman Examiner's Report, I came across lots of interesting-but-not-mind-blowingly-important bits of information, and I'm going to try to highlight my favorite ones. These two both come from the handwritten notes of Thomas Fontana, head of risk management in Citi's Global Financial Institutions group. The notes in question were taken during meetings at the New York Fed on the Sunday before Lehman failed (Sept. 14, 2008).

First, we learn that Vikram Pandit, CEO of one of the largest bank holding companies in the world (Citigroup), apparently didn't know what Section 23A was. For non-finance types, Section 23A is the law that governs transactions between commercial banks and their non-bank affiliates. If you've ever worked at a big bank, you know what 23A is — unless, apparently, you're the CEO. This definitely isn't a lawyers-only thing either — Fontana is a risk manager, and he was so surprised that he felt compelled to write, "VP [Vikram Pandit] doesn't know what 23A is?" Oh, Vikram.


Next, Fontana's notes appear to indicate that Hank Paulson foresaw that Lehman's bankruptcy filing would cause problems in the money markets, and was concerned about money market funds breaking the buck — which, of course, actually happened, and caused a devastating run on the U.S. money markets. The conventional wisdom has been that policymakers were completely blindsided by the run on money market funds (I know I didn't expect it either). But in Fontana's notes, taken during a meeting with Geithner and Paulson just before Lehman filed for bankruptcy, right under "Hank Paulson" it says "Funds breaking the buck . . . ." (I'm terrible at deciphering other people's handwriting, so I don't know what it says right after that.) In any event, I thought it was interesting that contrary to popular belief, Paulson actually was concerned about money market funds breaking the buck as a result of Lehman's bankruptcy filing — that it wasn't some out-of-nowhere problem that no one had anticipated.


23 comments:

Matt Browner Hamlin said...

I think after the ellipsis it says "...Lehman fails"

Kid Dynamite said...

it's amazing that you found and deciphered this stuff. great work.

bystander said...

I am so happy that Hank figured out that the financial system was in danger by mid September, after denying any problems could possibly occur after the failure of Bear, WaMu, etc through 2008. He's much smarter than I thought. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

Ken Houghton said...

What Hank Paulson knew and what the Secretary of the Treasury said publicly do not have to be the same thing.

Next line looks something like "Fed will take on Lehmann's..."

Anonymous said...

"...stuff. Extraordinary times!"

(Almost positive it's not "staff," as the 'a's and 'u's are very different elsewhere.)

Anonymous said...

Maybe "VP" didn't mean "Vikram Pandit," but the "Vice President," AKA Dick Cheney. Or maybe "Victor Parkins," a random intern that someone let sit in on the meeting and insisted on asking stupid questions.

Anonymous said...

Near the top does it say "public spirit is amazing .. .. .. truly patriotic!!"

I wonder if this was irony given that they were meeting to plan the first steps in the greatest theft of public treasure in history.

Anonymous said...

I will beBuy GW2 Gold so content in which Hank figured out the economic system is at risk by means of the middle of September, immediately after doubt any problems could possibly happen after the failing of Carry, WaMu, and so forth as a result of '08. He or she is considerably wiser in comparison withBuy RS Gold I believed. We appreciate you taking that to our awareness.

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