This is now the second book we've read on the demise of failed investment bank Lehman Brothers (OTC:LEHMQ) and today we're here to review Joseph Tibman's The Murder of Lehman Brothers: An Insider's Look at the Global Meltdown. What's interesting about this read is that it provides you with a different viewpoint of the crisis from the inside. The first book we read on this topic was Lawrence McDonald's New York Times Bestseller list book entitled A Colossal Failure of Common Sense: The Insider Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers.
While McDonald's book focused on different viewpoints and sources, Tibman takes a different approach by almost exclusively using his own sole account of what occurred within those hallowed walls. There are both pros and cons to this approach. On the positive side, this account is fresh, opinionated, and truly has a tenured insider feel. The negative aspect of this, though, is the fact that the book leaves with you with a limited viewpoint.
One of the strongest focus points of the book is the notion of 'drinking the Kool-Aid' on Wall Street. Given that so much greed (and irrationality) often abounds on Wall Street, the fact that Tibman's work takes aim at this is laudable. The focus on greed is something that always has and always will exist on Wall Street and Tibman's work showcases just how such desire can ultimately send you down in flames.
The book takes aim at Dick Fuld as it chronicles his 20 year rise and fall at the firm and is additionally laced with attacks at various members of the government. While other books on Lehman's demise will focus on the most recent events leading up to the crisis, The Murder of Lehman Brothers takes a slightly different (more elongated) approach. While the author of course covers the pressing issues relating to Lehman's recent collapse, he also details how they almost went under 10 years earlier had it not been for the U.S. government's bailout of Mexico at the time.
Another highlight of the book is its tone. Many books on finance seemingly have an 'intellectual' or condescending feel to them given the subject matter and language used. Not this book. If you hate the typical snobby, academic approach to financial writing or if you don't consider yourself to be the most financially savvy person out there, then The Murder of Lehman Brothers is perfect for you. The tone provides a very easy to read 'everyday' style that is refreshing.
A somewhat problematic area though (at least in our eyes) is the fact that Joseph Tibman is not the name of the individual whose viewpoint we are reading, but rather a pen name. This fact slightly diminishes the authority of the book and leaves us wondering about the author's true identity. However, we do know that he was a senior investment banker who worked at the firm from before it was spun off by American Express in 1994 until the day of its death on September 21st, 2008. Given the increasing focus on transparency in finance these days, a more 'full disclosure' approach would have been welcomed. At the same time though, we can understand the desire or need to remain anonymous for career purposes.
Overall, The Murder of Lehman Brothers is a compelling narrative of one insider's journey within the burning walls of the failed investment bank that provides a fresh account in a concise, easy to understand writing style worth checking out.