Barack Obama In; Dick Fuld Out
On the day after the election of Barack Obama as the next President of the United States, The Washington Post examined why he won in an article entitled Measured Response To Financial Crisis Sealed the Election. The conclusion of the article is that Barack Obama won because of the sudden collapse of Lehman Brothers on September 15th. That bankruptcy filing triggered "the biggest corporate collapse in U.S. history and an international financial meltdown", ultimately transforming the presidential race.
Is it any surprise then on the day after Obama's election, Bloomberg News reports that Lehman Brothers' much vilified Chairman and CEO Dick Fuld will be "terminated" by the bankrupt company by year-end without any bonus or severance pay?
Dick Fuld has been rightly criticized for driving the fourth largest investment bank into the ground and for the seemingly "large" amount of compensation he received over the years. For instance, Dick Fuld was openly criticized at an Oct. 6 hearing by Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, for taking excessive pay, which was estimated at $484.8 million since 2000. He is also being investigated long with 12 other individuals by three federal criminal probes focusing on Lehman Brothers.
Surely, Dick Fuld has become a regular punching bag on Wall Street. Both there and on Main Street, Fuld's various failures and excesses have been ridiculed by politicians, the media, and fellow bankers and executives to illustrate what is wrong with the way Wall Street operates. Equally well, Main Street citizens are quite angry about the Wall Street types who made many times the annual compensation of professionals in other lines of work like academics or engineering.
However, does not this vilification of Dick Fuld seem like a bit much? Many on Main Street have little appreciation of how the mortgage securitization process lowered homeowner mortgage rates for many years. That process saved hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars each month on both residential and commercial real estate. Spread across the many mortgages in the United States this "benefit" to Main Street offsets some of the amazing "profits" that Wall Street rang up in an environment of particularly low volatility and risk premiums.
Toomre Capital Markets LLC ("TCM") hopes that the election President-elect Obama represents a turning point in the rhetoric about Wall Street vis-à-vis Main Street. There are many financial challenges ahead for the United States and the world at large. Time certainly would be much better spent addressing these financial challenges rather than conducting "show hearings" and further vilification. Comments from the reader are welcome.