Monday, September 15, 2008

Lehman Employees = Selfless Heroes???

Here is an email (originally published by the New York Times) from a Lehman executive regarding the meltdown.

—– Original Message —–
To: undisclosed-recipients 
Sent: Sun Sep 14 18:52:29 2008
Subject: Thank You Everyone, Contact information below

The 1985 NFL regular season was ending for the 49ers. Ronnie Lott and Cowboys running back Timmy Newsome collided in such a gladiator-esque hit that Ronnie’s left pinky literally lay scattered on the turf in bone fragments and parts. Ronnie would have none of it. Pain was not the issue. Winning was. After a brief sideline trip, Ronnie endured all pain, returned
to the battlefield and moved on to the playoffs. He taped up his fingers against the Giants in the first round where the 49ers season ended.

Then Ronnie faced a choice … risk missing some of the next season and potentially reinjuring a surgically reconstructed hand or just cut the end of his finger off and get ready for the battlefield. The choice was obvious for Ronnie. His gut knew no other way. The end of the finger would be gone forever, and he would lead the 49ers into the playoffs the next year whilst
returning to the Pro Bowl for the third time. Nothing more need be said about this iconic professional, and all that he represents to the world that knows him.

Everyone in the Lehman credit business knows the Ronnie Lott story. His story and character encompass what goes on here everyday.

It actually carries beyond this floor and throughout the entire firm.

There’s a new season that starts on Monday.

Take my finger.

The email is compelling and colorful. However, the writer fails to understand the nature of self-sacrifice. Patrick Henry - the brave and patriotic American revolutionary who was hung by the British and said "I regret I have but one life to give for my country" probably performed the most significant act of self-sacrifice the US has ever seen. He died so that others might live, and so that a country might be born. Lehman died due to a flaw in an economic model. Someone assumed that paper contracts and a financial risk model made 30 to 1 leverage a prudent business decision.  

In my humble opinion, the metaphorical self-aggrandizement in this letter demonstrates the hubris that permeates Wall Street. (And really, isn't that what got us into this mess?)

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