The Last Days Of Lehman Brothers

by Lisa McGarry


James Cromwell (Six Feet Under, LA Confidential); James Bolam (New Tricks); Ben Daniels (Law & Order – UK, The Passion); Michael Landes (Love Soup, Material Girl); and Corey Johnson (The Bourne Ultimatum) star in a work of fiction inspired by the real events that took place on the weekend of 12 September 2008 – when the Lehman Brothers went to the wall.

As The Last Days Of Lehman Brothers begins, confidence in the bank has plunged. Its clearing bank is demanding more collateral, its attempts to raise money from a Korean bank stall and credit agencies are warning that if it doesn’t raise more capital it will be downgraded. At 6pm on 12 September, in an incredibly tense atmosphere, US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson assembles Wall Street’s finance titans at the Federal Reserve Building in downtown Manhattan.

All the big executives are present – apart from the CEO of Lehman, Dick Fuld, who remains in his office. Paulson delivers the harsh message that there will be no government bailout and that it is in everybody’s interests that a private-sector solution be found in the form of a merger with either Bank of America or Barclays, both of whom are showing interest.

Meanwhile, the CEO of Merrill Lynch, John Thain, is being urged to consider what will happen if Wall Street saves Lehman Brothers. His own firm is also under threat. Later that night, Ken Lewis, CEO of Bank of America, tells Fuld that he can’t buy Lehman without government assistance, which is not forthcoming.

On Saturday, Wall Street pulls together a plan to backstop Lehman Brothers so that another institution can buy them without having to shoulder all their bad debts. In a side deal, Merrill Lynch and Bank of America strike a bargain that will see them merge by Monday morning.

Lehman waits through the weekend for news that Barclays are riding to the rescue. This news comes early on Sunday and it looks like the crisis has been averted. But one hurdle remains: to ink a Lehman deal, Barclays requires the blessing of the UK’s Financial Services Authority. Paulson speaks to London. And the devastating news is: no deal.

Wednesday 9 September
9.00-10.00pm BBC TWO