Lehman: Hubris Kills

Sep.14.08 | About: Lehman Brothers (LEH)

Lehman is finished.

This is a sad day for me, as I have friends at Lehman (LEH), as I did at Bear Stearns.

It also makes me angry.  The livelihoods of thousands of people were placed at risk because some people were too stupid and blind to see the idiocy of their decisions.

For example, Lehman was part of the consortium that bought Archstone over a year ago.  Yet, when they did the deal, rental income from the properties they purchased could not even meet the interest payments!  As noted in The Wall Street Journal

In the deal for Archstone, which owns roughly 80,000 apartments concentrated in high-end neighborhoods in New York, California and other coastal cities, Lehman put up $250 million in equity and led a group of banks that brought an added $4.6 billion in so-called bridge equity that the banks planned to sell to other investors. The banks have had trouble selling the equity as real-estate values dropped about 20% since then.

At the time of the deal, the rent from the apartments wasn't enough to cover the debt service on the $16 billion in debt on the company [emphasis added].

Excuse my language but what the fuck?

How in God's name does a venerable Wall Street institution be so idiotic as to fund a deal where the property can't even meet the interest payments on the debt?!

I feel very bad about the people who are out on the street today and have had their savings wiped out.  But there's a part of me that also thinks that if a firm is stupid enough to do deals like Archstone, it deserves to be taken out and shot. 

This is a lesson for all investors - no matter how smart they may be, no matter where they went to school, no matter how much money they have, they are not above making catastrophic decisions. 

Hubris kills.

Never forget that.