Lehman Files for Bankruptcy; Merrill Is Sold
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By ANDREW ROSS SORKIN
Published: September 14, 2008
This article was reported by Jenny Anderson, Eric Dash and Andrew Ross Sorkin and was written by Mr. Sorkin.
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A figure in a window at Lehman Brothers headquarters in New York on Monday.
Video: The Weekend That Changed Wall Street
Times Topics: Lehman Brothers | Merrill Lynch
DealBook: The Struggle at Lehman
Statement: Federal Reserve Board
A Proud Company FaltersGraphic
A Proud Company Falters
5 Days of Pressure, Fear and Ultimately, Failure (September 16, 2008)
Stunning Fall for Main Street’s Brokerage Firm (September 15, 2008)
Purchase of Merrill Fulfills Quest for a Bank (September 15, 2008)
Banks Fear Next Move by Shorts (September 15, 2008)
Fed Loosens Standards on Emergency Loans (September 15, 2008)
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Robert Wolf, chairman for the Americas at UBS; one of the top bankers that met at Federal Reserve in Manhattan to discuss the fate of Lehman.
"If you wanna hate the rich, fine, but don't think this isn't already trickling down. Here on the Upper East Side where many of the wealthiest live, stores are closing left and right."
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In one of the most dramatic days in Wall Street’s history, Merrill Lynch agreed to sell itself on Sunday to Bank of America for roughly $50 billion to avert a deepening financial crisis, while another prominent securities firm, Lehman Brothers, filed for bankruptcy protection and hurtled toward liquidation after it failed to find a buyer.
The humbling moves, which reshape the landscape of American finance, mark the latest chapter in a tumultuous year in which once-proud financial institutions have been brought to their knees as a result of hundreds of billions of dollars in losses because of bad mortgage finance and real estate investments.
But even as the fates of Lehman and Merrill hung in the balance, another crisis loomed as the insurance giant American International Group appeared to teeter. Staggered by losses stemming from the credit crisis, A.I.G. sought a $40 billion lifeline from the Federal Reserve, without which the company may have only days to survive.
The stunning series of events culminated a weekend of frantic around-the-clock negotiations, as Wall Street bankers huddled in meetings at the behest of Bush administration officials to try to avoid a downward spiral in the markets stemming from a crisis of confidence.
“My goodness. I’ve been in the business 35 years, and these are the most extraordinary events I’ve ever seen,” said Peter G. Peterson, co-founder of the private equity firm the Blackstone Group, who was head of Lehman in the 1970s and a secretary of commerce in the Nixon administration.
It remains to be seen whether the sale of Merrill, which was worth more than $100 billion during the last year, and the controlled demise of Lehman will be enough to finally turn the tide in the yearlong financial crisis that has crippled Wall Street and threatened the broader economy.
Early Monday morning, Lehman said it would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in New York for its holding company in what would be the largest failure of an investment bank since the collapse of Drexel Burnham Lambert 18 years ago, the Associated Press reported.
Questions remain about how the market will react Monday, particularly to Lehman’s plan to wind down its trading operations, and whether other companies, like A.I.G. and Washington Mutual, the nation’s largest savings and loan, might falter.
Indeed, in a move that echoed Wall Street’s rescue of a big hedge fund a decade ago this week, 10 major banks agreed to create an emergency fund of $70 billion to $100 billion that financial institutions can use to protect themselves from the fallout of Lehman’s failure.