The storied investment bank didn’t have to die. But the Secretary of the Treasury decided to kill it, and had Ben Bernanke do the dirty work.
In especially strong language for an academic, Professor Ball takes issue with the established narrative that the Fed was powerless to lend to Lehman in its waning hours: “Fed officials have not been transparent about the Lehman crisis. Their explanations for their actions rest on flawed economic and legal reasoning and dubious factual claims….”
One of the more intriguing questions Professor Ball tackles is why Mr. Paulson, rather than Mr. Bernanke, appears to have been the primary decision maker, when sole authority to lend to an institution in distress rests with the Fed. The answer, he suggests, is to be found more in psychology than data.
“By many accounts, Paulson was a highly assertive person who often told others what to do, and Bernanke was not,” Professor Ball writes. “Based on these traits, we would expect Paulson to take charge in a crisis.”