From non-target to BB CEO: My story

DickFuld's picture
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Mod Note (Andy): #TBT Throwback Thursday - this was originally posted on 11/25/13. Check out @DickFuld's current AMA here. To see all of our top content from the past, click here.

I was like many of you at one point in my life. I was a non-target student with big dreams. Luckily, I was an extraordinary networker and worked my way into Lehman on the commercial paper desk. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. I breathed the CP market and built a reputation from an early age as someone you should not fuck with.

Fixed income was becoming the lifeblood of our firm and I was at the epicenter of it. Lew Glucksman was a God at our firm. He had his office at the center of our trading floor and used to smoke cigars in his little glass encased office. Usually only coming out to yell at someone for botching a trade. (side note: he once became so angry that he kicked a trash can during the middle of the day and shattered the glass wall of his office) Lew was determined to show these fancy investment bankers how real money was made and he did. He eventually became the CEO, which was virtually unheard of at the time. Traders didn't become CEOs, but times were changing rapidly. I wanted to be him. I bled Lehman green through and through.

I stuck through the firm through the roughest of times. The first wave of shit was when we were bought by American Express. These people really didn't know what to do with us. They sold charge cards and we made mountains of money trading bonds. It was a horrible fit and we all wanted out. We eventually got our wish and spun out in 1994 with me as the CEO. 1998 was another tough time for us...the god damned short sellers were out to get us with the LTCM debacle. We were liquid with solid financials, but they were looking to take us down, but we weathered the storm and it made us stronger. The 2001 terrorist attacks nearly ruined us again, but we pulled together as a team and our clients rewarded us again.

My goal was for Lehman to be the top investment bank in the world and in many respects, that's what we became. But, first, we had to grow and invest in the other parts of our business to give us a more balanced approach to printing money. I invested heavily in the equities business and we sat atop the Institutional Investor equity research rankings for years. I invested heavily in our banking business and we did well there too. I built up an Asset Management franchise that was capped off by our purchase of Neuberger Berman in 2003. We were a globally diversified company that could provide expertise to virtually any financial problem. Our stock outperformed all of the other investment banks and almost every financial company out there. I was named CEO of the year multiple times because of our success in providing liquidity and solutions to our clients.

As you surely know by now, not everything turned out perfectly for us. We were in a similar position to the other banks in 2007, but the world started coming apart. Politics would eventually be the end of Lehman. Hank Paulson was determined to get us, he was so envious of what we accomplished and didn't want to see us dethrone his beloved Goldman Sachs, which we were all but certain to do. We also had the brother and the cousin of the POTUS on our payroll, which didn't help. So, they made us fail.

Ultimately, do I feel responsibility for what happened? Yes, I do. I will remember what happened for as long as I'm still breathing and I'm sorry that I let down my employees (who I consider family), our clients, and our shareholders. That being said, I'll never forgive those bastards (Paulson, Geithner, Bush) for what they did to the company we all loved. Anyway, there have been a lot of negative things said about me, so I just wanted to get the truth out there.

-- Dick

(PS -- nobody ever hit me in the company locker room, that was a lie designed to sell newspapers)