We’ll close on a related note, by pointing out a problematic sub-genre of Lehman coverage: comparing Fuld unfavorably to Merrill CEO John Thain. The premise of these stories, in the NYT or the WSJ, for example, is that the comparison is interesting because one firm survived and the other didn’t. But this comparison is ultimately of limited importance because both firms were essentially playing the same game.
And, crucially, what happens is that these pieces help to justify the government’s decision not to save Lehman—a decision that, problems with the bailout aside, has been increasingly looking like the wrong one.
For example: In the days just before Lehman’s fall, The Wall Street Journal published a (now-to-be-regretted) editorial that opposed a government bailout for Lehman. The argument included the observation that Fuld “appears to have managed the crisis with less skill and dispatch than has, for example, John Thain at Merrill.” Maybe so, but so what? Whatever Fuld did or didn’t do, at the eleventh hour all that should have mattered to Paulson and Bernanke was the impact of Lehman’s fall on the larger economy. Let the prosecutors—and, fingers crossed, the media—figure out the rest.
In the end, the proper response to the demonization of Fuld is not to pull a New York and say he is a victim, but to perform a Michael Hudson and look at the larger picture.