The British Are Making a Movie About Lehman Brothers

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Paulson, left, and Geithner, as they were always meant to be. Photo: Jed Egan, Photos: Getty Images, iStockphoto

We think the casting of the BBC's upcoming Lehman Brothers movie is pretty good — James Cromwell does resemble Hank Paulson, and Cory Johnson from United 93 has the eyebrows to play Richard Fuld, though if we were him we'd be concerned about being pidgeonholed as the Guy Who's in Movies That End Really Badly. But it's still awfully British, considering it's a New York story — the supporting cast is all limeys, the director's credits include something called The Curse Of Steptoe, and the producer is best known for Little Dorrit. How is this going to go, exactly?

Friday, September 12, 2008.
Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson: Sir Geithner, I've decided that the federal government shall not be bailing out Lehman Brothers. The situation at Bear Stearns has gone completely pear-shaped, and I have a legacy to protect. I do not want history to view me as the prat from Goldman Sachs who assisted the banks because he was in thrall to Wall Street.
New York Fed chief Tim Geithner: Very good, sire. I shall inform the CEOs at once.

Later that same evening, the New York Fed basement. Geithner and Ben Bernanke are facing a table of CEOs from major financial institutions. No one from Lehman is present.

Geithner: Lord Paulson has decreed that there will not be a federal bailout of Lehman Brothers.
JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon: Blimey.
Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain: Barmy!
Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack: [To Geithner] Good chap, have you gone daft? The firm's completely shambolic. If the government allows it to collapse, the financial system as a whole might go down! Who knows what firm might be next in the queue? [Everyone looks at John Thain]
John Thain: [To Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis] Oy, Ken, do you fancy going for a pint later on?
Geithner: [Clears throat] Lord Paulson is willing to take that risk. Now, it is in our best interest to find a solution to this unpleasantness, perhaps by breaking Lehman up into palatable pieces that each of you might be able to swallow with the help of a strong cup of tea, the tea in this case being the federal government —
Wachovia CEO Bob Steel:: Sod off!
Geithner: [Blushes]
John Thain: Mack? How about you? Pub later on?
Ken Lewis: Bob's right. Bloody hell! This is a load of codswallop. Why should we be the ones who drop the dosh to fix Lehman's problems when so many others — such as institutional investors, hedge funds, and foreign investors — also face exposure?
Ben Bernanke: Because you want to keep your jobs. Don't you?

Coming Soon: Lehman Brothers The Movie [DealBook/NYT]
Related: Ultimatum by Paulson Sparked Frantic End [WSJ]