The Last Days Of Lehman Brothers Review: City *ankers Sweat It Out

September 9, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews


lehman300x210THE LAST DAYS OF LEHMAN BROTHERS: Wednesday 9th September, BBC2, 9pm ALERT ME

In September 2008 the investment banker fraternity cemented its position as public enemy number one and despite a valiant effort from some penny-pinching MPs, they have yet to be displaced.

Nearly a year later, wearing a pin-stripe suit on the tube is still not advisable.

But how many of us torch-waving yokels actually understand what happened during that crucial weekend when Lehman Brothers came crashing down? I certainly didn’t and to be honest, after watching this programme I still don’t – but it is slightly clearer.

This is an engaging piece of television and a fine achievement for the BBC who have accomplished some excellent results on a limited time-scale and budget (there is a recession on after all).

As the most adroit of you may have guessed, the content centres around the last days of Lehman Brothers – but those with an understandable aversion to financial documentaries should not fear, for this is as sharp and interesting as the FT is pink and boring.

With notable turns from some excellent British actors (including James Bolam and James Cromwell), the writers have produced a script which bridges the gap between drama and satire very effectively.

There is even a quick idiot’s guide to what caused the whole mess in the first place, which I committed to memory in an attempt to impress the next person unlucky enough to start a conversation with me about the financial crisis.

The programme starts by introducing us to a maniacally unhinged Dick Fuld, CEO of Lehman Brothers – portrayed by Corey Johnson who gratuitously plays the bank boss to the hilt.

The accuracy of the scene in which he slumps to the floor in tears as the unthinkable finally happens is open to question, but we begin to understand how he believed the US government would bail the bank out – as it had done to all the others – until the very last minute.

Ensuing recreations of what may (or may not) have happened behind the closed doors of New York’s federal reserve as the CEOs of Lehman’s rival banks considered the potential fall-out from the biggest bankruptcy in American history, are also palpable.

I wonder if that toxic asset Fred Goodwin will be watching?

Sean Marland