Bloomberg has a fantastic article today about how Lehman’s decaying corpse is suing a bunch of former clients, many of them wee and sympathetic nonprofits, who hosed Lehman when they terminated swaps in September 2008. Some of these lawsuits turn on disputes over when those clients, or their consultants, should have valued the swaps for termination purposes, and I was looking forward to reading Bloomberg’s account of which of those customers used the SWPM <go> function on their terminals and on what dates, but for some reason that wasn’t mentioned.
The basic story is that clients had trades with Lehman that were in-the-money to Lehman, and when Lehman went bankrupt the clients terminated the trades and wired Lehman termination payments that Lehman now rather belatedly finds inadequate. You could understand why the clients would want to get out of these trades: for one thing, the trades had moved against the clients (thus being in-the-money to Lehman) and seemed likely to move further against them1; for another, if the trades did move back in the clients’ favor, what were the odds that a freshly bankrupted Lehman would pay the clients what they were owed?
Is Lehman right that the clients underpaid? Oh, I mean, of course. I don’t have the details of the trades but you can reason this out from first principles. Here:
- It’s September 15, 2008, and Lehman has just filed for bankruptcy.
- You owe Lehman some money.
- How much you owe them is a somewhat subjective matter that depends on what termination date you pick, what model you use, whom you ask for a quote, etc.
- You know, with some certainty, that everyone at Lehman who knows anything about your trade, and also everyone who doesn’t, has bigger things to worry about, like stealing office supplies on their way out the door.
- You can basically write them a check and enclose a note saying “here’s what we think we owe you,” and see if they write back.
- How big is the check?