Saturday, March 13, 2010

Moral Courage: The Lesson from Lehman

In a 2000 page report, court appointed examiner, Anton R. Valukas, said that Lehman Brothers used a tactic for collateralizing short term financing to temporarily move assets off its books to reduce quarter-end debt levels while calling the transactions sales instead of loans.

Such shenanigans were not suppose to happen again after Enron, with strengthened whistle blower laws and Sarbanes-Oxley.  It did, and with time, we will probably discover more such wrong doing among Wall Street firms involved in the meltdown.  All this illustrates the simple point that no law and no amount of enforcement can replace leaders and employees with the moral courage to admit mistakes.

As an aside, it was fortunate the Treasury did not bail out Lehman. A bailout would have made the American taxpayer the ultimate patsy in a con game. Another reason not to do bailouts - period.

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