"Fuld portrayed Lehman as a firm that was fighting successfully to survive. With those words of encouragement, some investors lent Lehman money, others bought its stock or decided not to sell, thinking the situation was going to get better. Given what later happened, that sounds like an open-and-shut case of securities fraud, with greedy Wall Streeters caught lying to public investors, right? Well, no.
I'm told the SEC is under intense pressure to bring a case against someone at Lehman, whether it's Fuld or another top exec -- and having a tough time coming up with conclusive evidence they knew they were lying about what they were saying about Lehman's chances. And if they can't prove that, they don't have a fraud case...As for the accounting gimmick Lehman used just before its '08 implosion, it was approved by the firm's auditor, Ernst & Young -- which OK'd it because other firms had used similar techniques to mitigate losses, without a peep from regulators. In other words, Fuld really did think Lehman would survive -- because in the past, with the help of the feds, it had. But...if Fuld "had" to know better, then what about all those politicians and bureaucrats who encouraged the creation of mortgage-backed securities, which were at the heart of the collapse? What about the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac execs who let banks hand out loans to almost everyone? What about the Federal Reserve and Treasury officials, under Republicans and Democrats, who stepped in and mitigated Wall Street losses time after time, creating an environment where CEOs like Fuld believed there was no consequence to risk-taking? If it's a crime to help trigger a disaster by getting things wrong, a lot of people belong in jail."