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The Wall Street Big Wig Lunch Bear Didn't Get Invited To

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On Tuesday, March 11, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke lunched with what Bloomberg is describing as a “Who's Who of Wall Street leaders.” Attendees JPMorgan Chase 's Jamie Dimon, Goldman Sachs’s top dog Lloyd Blankfein, Lehman Brothers boss Richard Fuld, Morgan Stanley President James Gorman, Citigroup’s consigliore Robert Rubin, Blackstone Group’s little big man Stephen Schwarzman and Merrill Lynch’s John Thain.
Guess who wasn’t at the lunch? If you answered “anyone from Bear Stearns” you’d be absolutely right. Now some are speculating that Bear Stearns may have been purposefully excluded because its fate was one of the topics of discussion.
“It doesn't seem credible that just about every major financial institution in the United States, except Bear Stearns, had a meeting about the most pressing issue of the day, bank liquidity, and the subject wasn't about Bear Stearns, who had rumors swirling about them since Monday,” Eric Salzman at the Monkey Business blog says.
What was discussed at the luncheon has not been revealed. Bloomberg News obtained Bernanke’s schedule and the list of attendees in response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act. But the timing seems is jarring. Rumors of liquidity troubles at Bear had prompted the bank to issue a denial the day before for the lunch. On the preceding Friday, one bank (which has not been identified) refused to make a short term loan of $2 billion to Bear. The meeting came hours after Bernanke announced plans to lend $200 billion of Treasuries in exchange for debt including mortgage-backed securities. Hours after the meeting every bank on Wall Street reportedly began refusing to issue credit protection on the debt of Bear. Two days later Bear Stearns chief executive Alan Schwarz would be forced to call Dimon to seek $30 billion in emergency funding.
Update: Was Bear left out because its top two men were out of town? If we recall correctly, Schwarz was down at the Bear Stearns Media Conference in Palm Beach around this time, and chairman Jimmy Cayne was flying out for a bridge tournament in the midwest.
Bernanke Lunched With Dimon, Rubin Before Bear Rescue [Bloomberg]