“The thing that New Yorkers need to know is that we planned for a day like today,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said in a press conference today in which city leaders tried their best to calm the fears of a jittery public. But who could really be prepared for a day in which Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, John Thain decided to sell Merrill Lynch, insurance giant AIG decided it could not go on without $40 billion, and the Dow had the largest drop since the days after 9/11?
New York State and the Federal Reserve (aided by Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan) stepped in to help AIG, while white knight Ken Lewis came to John Thain’s rescue. And Mayor Bloomberg promised today that even though things were “not good,” they were “not calamitous”: “In years when revenues exceeded expenses, we saved as much as possible for the years when we would really need it,” he said, and we have to believe him, because he has billions of dollars.
Except Lehman. For Lehman, today was most definitely calamitous. Making it weirder was the fact that CEO Richard Fuld was nowhere to be found. Indeed: After filing Chapter 11 this morning, it seemed the man once nicknamed “the Gorilla” for his tough attitude had retreated into his cave. Was he on the phone, trying hard for a decent deal for Lehman’s money-management unit? Too ashamed about his puffy eyes to be seen in public? Perhaps. But there was, according to employees, no excuse for not offering an apology.
And oh, the employees had it hard.
Paparazzi hung around outside Lehman offices all around the globe, snapping pictures of them as they lugged boxes full of company merch home. In New York, the Times lingered over the wreckage within:
Pairs of traders, their brows furrowed, whispered to one another at the ends of aisles. Some perused the bankruptcy papers that their superiors had filed just hours earlier. One trader examined the Wikipedia entry for “conservatorship.” Atop one desk sat a stuffed novelty pint of Guinness beer, its owner nowhere to be seen, perhaps the modern-day equivalent of “Gone Drinkin’.”
And perhaps now it is time for us all to go drinkin.’