Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Lehman Brothers : Before and After

America's fourth-largest investment bank Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc has filed the biggest bankruptcy petition known to mankind.

The 158-year-old firm was founded by brothers Henry, Emanuel and Mayer Lehman, Jewish immigrants to the US from Germany, in 1850. Henry set up a general store in Alabama in 1844 and was later joined by his brothers. In 1850 they set up the merchant bank in New York after having made money in railway bonds. So what went wrong?

L ehman Bros, which till June 2008 had not reported a quarterly loss even once, had earlier survived many an economic crises, like railroad bankruptcies of the 1800s, the Great Depression in the 1930s, and the collapse of Long-Term Capital Management in the 1990s.

Thus the collapse of the giant investment bank came as a major shock for the entire world markets that plunged after Lehman filed a Chapter 11 petition with US Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan.

The $613 billion (some estimates put the size at $639 billion) bankruptcy thus throws up the question: why did the Wall Street giant go bust? Speak India discusses why