Table of Contents
Lehman Brothers started their journey of business back in 1844. Henry Lehman started a general store and he was an immigrant of Germany. The general store was created in Montgomery, Alabama. Later on, until 1850, Henry Lehman and his brothers Emanuel and Mayer started their joint business venture named as Lehman Brothers. The firm had faced several prosperous years in the United States and became the reason to boost up the US economy over many years. Lehman Brother became a huge investment banking system in the country. Lehman Brothers also faced several challenges in the 19h and 20th century and successfully handle these challenges. The challenges include the railroad bankruptcy in 1800, the era of Great Depression in 1930, faced the time of two massive world wars, long term capital management collapse, and later the Russian Collapse in the year of 1998. These all were huge disasters but the firm of Lehman Brothers survived in all these situations. But 21st century started with many unpredictable crises of markets and the US housing market crisis impacted negatively on the firm of Lehman Brothers and brought it onto the knees. The major reason of the failure was the interest and huge spending of Lehman Brothers in the subprime mortgage market that became a huge disastrous step and ended the prosperous era of Lehman Brothers.
In the start of the 21st century, United States housing boom spread all over the country. In 2003, and 2004, Lehman Brothers choose to acquire five mortgage lenders which initially provide the firm a huge rate of profit. These lenders include subprime lender, BNC mortgage lender, and the Aurora loan services. All these service providers based on the specialties of Alt-A loans. These types of loans were designed to provide borrowers the opportunity to take loan without complete set of documentation process. These purchases first sound psychic in the first place, but Lehman Brothers achieve a huge rate of profit due to their investment procedures. The real estate business of Lehman Brothers generated the revenues flow from 56% in 2004 to 2006. These real estate business revenues were far more than the other Lehman Brothers businesses including the investment banking business and the asset management business. Lehman Brothers observed the business of $146 billion in the area of mortgages in the year of 2006 that leaded up there with 10 percent increase from the year of 2005. The every year profit of Lehman Brothers were recorded and it was better than before, such as from 2005 to 2007, the reported profit rate net income crossed the $4.2 billion over the Lehman Brothers revenues of $19.3 billion.
In 2007, the circumstances started to change as the stock reached $86.18. Lehman Brothers got the edge in the market with the market capitalization nearly too more than $50 billion. But this was the start of the problem that started to arise in the US housing market. In the first quarter of 2007, cracks started to emerge in the US housing markets and they are visible for all the markets present in the country. On the other side, defaults linked with subprime mortgages started to increase. In March 2007, the stock faced biggest one day drop in the last five years and one day later it was predicted that it will impact the Lehman Brothers profit rates. But the Lehman Brothers reported the record revenues and profit for the first quarter of the year. The predictions were made that the changing pattern of US housing market with impact the profitability of Lehman Brothers, but the Chief Financial Officer of Lehman Brothers stated some different views. According to his views, the risks that are arising in the markets will not impact or may have a little impact on the profit and earning rate of the Lehman Brothers firm. In his opinion, there were no risks linked with the subprime markets and the rest of US housing markets that could hurt the United States economy.
The year 2007 was not the good one for the US markets as in August 2007; markets faced a huge credit crisis. It was the result of the crisis of two Bear Stearns Hedge Funds. This leads to the starting cracks in the foundation of Lehman Brothers. The stock of the firm started to decrease and fell quickly. This impacted negatively to its repute and the firm had to take serious steps for the survival. The company had no other option rather to eliminate the mortgage related jobs, and it eliminate more than 23, 00 jobs. The company had to face several problems and due to these problems the company shut down its BNC unit. The problems did not resolved as kept increasing and the firm closed its offices of ALT-A loans association in three states of the country. The US housing market stocks rate were unpredictable and the problems seems to increase, this does not impacted the mortgage reputation of Lehman Brothers and it was still the major player in the market. But the insecurities towards the future led the Lehman Brothers to sign different liabilities in the mortgage backed securities. It was based on more than $80 billion portfolio, and it was far more than the shareholders equity level. The fourth quarter of the year 2007, bring back the profit rate for Lehman Brothers and its stock rebounded. The global trending markets faced new high profit rates and increase in the prices for the fixed income assets. These all scenarios created a temporary return to Lehman Brothers in the market. The Lehman Brothers started to take initiative to settle in the market again, but the firm did not accept the opportunity to spend on the mortgage portfolio. It leads to the huge disastrous situation for the firm as it was the last opportunity to stable for the company.
The conditions of US housing market, and the mortgage system impacted negatively to the reputation of Lehman Brothers. The ratio of the firm in the total assets and its comparison with the shareholders equity level was 31 in the year of 2007. The huge rate of spending in the mortgage portfolio and its required securities level increased the firm vulnerability in the markets. Its condition starts to decline and the mortgage value of securities started to weak its foundations in the markets. Later on, in the start of 2008, the company’s repute and condition does not improved and the collapse of Bear Stearns impacted its profit rate more negatively. It was the collapse of second largest institution of mortgage securities that leads to the start of cracks in the foundation of Lehman Brothers. Due to the collapse of Bear Stearns the share of Lehman Brothers fall instantly and it was predicted that it will lead to a huge disaster and will lead to the huge failure of successful Wall Street firm the Lehman Brothers. The shares of Lehman Brothers fall till 48 % in the markets. In June 2008, Lehman Brothers announced their second quarter loss in the markets which was more than $2 billion. Several measures were taken but these all were considered as late measures which were not contributed positively to the repute of the company. In September 2008, the firm reported a huge loss of $3.9 billion. In the end of that week, Lehman Brothers only had $1 billion cash left. The bank of America and Barclays PLC started its measures to take over the Lehman Brothers but it was too late and their efforts remain unsuccessful. The end of Lehman Brothers considered as the worst and most dangerous fall of markets in 2008, and it impacted negatively to the world financial markets for many weeks.
The ethical lapse existed in the fall and failure of the Lehman Brothers firm. The most wrong and inappropriate measure was the manipulation of assets done by the administration of the company. It includes the approval of assets that took away from the accounts of Lehman Brothers. The approval was made by Chief Financial Officer Erin Callan of the company. This huge misinterpretation impacted negatively to the financial scenario of the company. This technique of manipulation was used twice in two quarters before the fall of the company. The movements of assets from the balance sheet of the company were an intentional measure and taken to create an imaginable stance that everything was alright and under security. The executive team of the company had taken several wrong turns and decisions to balance the repute of the company in the international markets. The management was unable to determine the right steps that should be taken and failed to handle the issues in a proper way. The banking leverage was high from six consistent months, and they do not have any choice to mislead the shareholders, but they needed a better solution and a better step. They should have applied strategic measures and serve with accurate information to the details of finances to their shareholders. They could receive then better option and more time from the market to stabilize in the market and the situation was not leaded towards this disastrous end.
The story and the failure of Lehman Brother not only include the crash fall of the markets and wrong decisions of their investments processes. It also includes the lack of ethical behavior and lack of professionalism that showed by it administrative staff and its professional advisors. They did not hold the fact of failure and consistently take miss leaded decisions and manipulate the financial information of the company. The consequences were severe and leaded up to the end of world famous investment banking system, the Lehman Brothers. The major and profound messages that could be gained from the huge failure of the company are that the ethical behavior is required and was required at the time of its fall. The transparency and accountability measures were important and paramount in the case of Lehman Brothers. The unethical decisions and spending in the wrong ways leaded them to collapse and their unethical business practices ended their journey of business. Global crisis occurs in the business world and these are not preventable enough that did not impact any business venture negatively. The responsibilities lies with the firms that needs to take transparent measures, ethical decisions, and accountability measures for their firm strength and long term ways.