An Answer for Everything

So there’s Lehman Bros. CEO Dick Fuld explaining his Wall Street Waterloo to congressional camera hogs that issue meaningless scoldings, while we watch the drama. BasicMan can only shake his head.

Save it Dick, we’ve heard it all before. Crocodile tears.

Dick Fuld was the boss at Lehman Bros. when the walls came crashing down last month. He got an invitation to talk to the folks at Congress last Monday and what happened was nothing short of Japanese Kabuki. You know, that sort of drama big on singing and dancing. In this case, Mr. Fuld did both the singing and dancing. <!–more–>Because I don’t want to turn this into a political commentary, I’ll give the stern

See Dick Dance

See Dick Dance

 looking gentlemen and gentlewomen a pass on their parts in this charade and will simply say, they did a wonderful job playing the role of inquisitors with zero credibility.

Back to Dick Fuld. He seems like a nice enough guy. He is absolutely heartbroken as he ponders the thousands of employees and their loss at LB. He has trouble sleeping at night. Dick has been misunderstood, misrepresented in the media, has lost everything, never had a contract, never cashed in his stock options, etc. Everything that happened under his command was above board, legit, and part of the bigger plan to bring them back to profitability. He had an answer for everything.

Save it Dick, we’ve heard it all before. Crocodile tears. Now please return to your home in Connecticut, Florida, Colorado, or Manhattan.

You see, Dick is not a basicman. He’s not like you and me. But this is the way of Wall Street business as we are slowly learning. Dick grew accustomed to spinning the facts and numbers to cover his misdeeds and malfeasance as a businessman and paid his lieutenants to ‘have his back’. And we thought politicians had cornered the market in this area of expertise.

Sure he feels horrible but he isn’t remorseful. He talks of a million dollars like its pocket change. And why not, he and everyone else at LB have been incredibly well compensated as they cruised toward the waterfall while paddling in the subprime canoe. In 2006, LB paid out average bonuses to 26,000 staffers of $335,000. (Note for some perspective > that is the average bonus; taking into account secretaries and clerks, etc.) In December 2007, employees made the ultimate sacrifice as an extra 3,000 people were hired; avaerage staff bonuses paid out just last December dropped to $332,000 per person. Fuld for his part as the canoe captain, received $35 million in stock options on top of his salary.

In the words of NYC financial analyst Jeanne Branthover; managing director of Boyden World Corp., an executive recruiter in New York. `These firms have to keep their talent and they have to do it by paying.” Thank you Jeanne, for that bit of context. It appears that Jeanne is not a basicman(ette) either. 

So there’s Dick Fuld explaining his Wall Street Waterloo to congressional camera hogs that issue meaningless scoldings, while we watch the drama. BasicMan can only shake his head.

It’s tough to feel bad for Lehman and its employees; or Bear Sterns, AIG, Merrill Lynch, et al. At the end of the day it’s still a risk reward world. They played a risky game no matter how Dick Fuld wants to spin it. His employees were in it with both feet and they enjoyed it right up to their last bonus check. And if you still have an ounce of compassion for the ‘working people’ at LB,  just know that even after the meltdown, the top New York execs had a $2.5bn pot of cash that was set aside just for them. How thoughtful.

I was asked the other day to define a ‘basic-businessman’. In this subgenus of the species, its easier to just say; Google ‘Dick Fuld’ and read up on his life in business over the last 4-5 years. Then, picture someone totally opposite in every way.


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