By Linda Sandler
September 27, 2008
Bloomberg -- Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.'s brokerage unit, in the months before its parent filed for bankruptcy protection, lost more than $400 billion in assets, according to the trustee overseeing customer accounts.
Lehman's holding company filed for bankruptcy Sept. 15 claiming $639 billion in assets, using four-month-old data. The wholly owned brokerage unit shrank to less than $100 billion in assets from $500 billion ``a few months ago,'' according to a Sept. 19 court statement by James Giddens, the trustee overseeing the settling of Lehman brokerage customer accounts by the Securities Investor Protection Corp.
The loss in value was caused by ``changes in the market,'' according to Giddens, a partner at law firm Hughes Hubbard & Reed, who spoke at a bankruptcy court hearing in Manhattan. The runoff may indicate Lehman's customers, including many hedge funds, canceled and closed out trades as they began to doubt the firm's ability to navigate the credit crunch, bankruptcy analysts and lawyers said.
"There was the proverbial run on the bank'' at Lehman, said Martin Bienenstock of the law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf, who is advising clients including Walt Disney Co. on recovering their money from Lehman. There was a similar capital flight from Bear Stearns earlier this year, he said.
Most of Lehman's pre-bankruptcy assets were securities, according to its balance sheets. Lehman said on Sept. 10 that the consolidated gross assets of the firm stood at $600 billion and net assets at $311 billion. The difference between net and gross is the so-called matched book, which is overnight lending or securities pledged for overnight borrowing.