EVEN by the standards of the worst financial crisis for at least a generation, the events of Sunday Spetember14th and the day before were extraordinary. The weekend began with hopes that a deal could be struck, with or without government backing, to save Lehman Brothers, America’s fourth-largest investment bank. It ended with Lehman’s set for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and the bank preparing to wind itself up after those efforts failed. Other vulnerable financial giants scrambled to sell themselves or raise enough capital to stave off a similar fate. Merrill Lynch, the third-biggest investment bank, sold itself to Bank of America (BofA), an erstwhile Lehman suitor, in a $50 billion all-stock deal. American International Group (AIG) brought forward a potentially life-saving overhaul and went cap-in-hand to the Federal Reserve.
On Sunday night the situation was still fluid, with bankers and regulators working to limit the fallout. They were girding themselves for a dreadful Monday in the markets. Australia’s stockmarket opened sharply lower on Monday (most other Asian bourses were closed). American stock futures were deep in the red too, and the dollar weaker. Spreads on risky credit, already elevated, widened further.
Nightmare on Wall Street
A weekend of high drama reshapes American finance
The takeover of Merrill leaves just two large independent investment banks in America, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.