Is Dick Fuld ready to write the next big book on the 2008 financial crisis?
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The former Lehman Brothers chief executive has toyed with the idea of writing a book about his long career on Wall Street, as well as his final tumultuous days as CEO of the firm that, when it declared bankruptcy exactly three years ago today, sparked the wider collapse of the nations financial system, two people with direct knowledge of the matter have told the FOX Business Network.
Fuld, however, appears to be leaning against such a move even if hes grown increasingly frustrated with the his public persona -- underscored in several best-selling books and televised accounts -- as one of the people responsible for the banking collapse, people close to him say.
Even though hes unlikely to face federal criminal or regulatory charges over some of his actions as Lehmans CEO during the firms final days, he continues to face millions of dollars in potential civil liabilities from shareholder lawsuits.
And as first reported by the FOX Business Network, the New York Attorney Generals office is ramping up its probe of the Lehman bankruptcy and appears to be expanding it beyond the role of Lehmans auditor, Ernst & Young to include the actions of senior Lehman executives, including possibly Fuld.
Calls to Fulds attorney, and one placed to his business office in Manhattan, were not returned.
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But people close to Fuld say the former Lehman CEO is still itching to tell his side of the story. Hes approached at least one person involved in publishing about the process of getting a book together, though this person says Fulds lawyers appear to be telling him to remain silent at least for the immediate future.
He feels he has a story to tell and hes been unfairly depicted, this person said.
Of course another problem with Fuld telling his side of the story involving Lehmans collapse is whether it passes the credibility test with the general public. Known as the gorilla during his long career on Wall Street, Fuld was considered for most of that time as among the Streets toughest and most successful CEOs. He helped Lehman survive near extinction during the market implosions in 1994, and in 1998, and Lehmans stock soared.
But the cracks in his leadership began to form in late 2007, when it became clear that the firm held underwater assets tied to commercial real estate. Investor David Einhorn was among the first to draw attention to the firms faulty balance sheet, which Einhorn said didnt properly disclose the firms financial problems, setting off a public battle with Fuld and his senior staff.
In the end, Einhorn prevailed, when Lehman began to slowly disclose its need to raise capital during the summer of 2008, which also began the firms descent toward bankruptcy. During that time, Fuld was at the center of the controversy for not selling Lehman to a larger bank at the prices that were offered.
By September 15, 2008, a plan in which the big banks would purchase Lehmans toxic assets while the good part of the bank would be sold to Barclays Plc had emerged, and then faltered. When the federal government refused to bailout the beleaguered bank, Lehman was forced to file for bankruptcy. People close to Fuld say nearly up until the time he signed the bankruptcy documents, Fuld believed the government would step in with a last-minute bailout.
Since then Fuld has been forced to testify before Congressional subcommittees investigating the financial crisis, and the subject of both criminal and civil regulatory probes by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the US Justice Department, though people close to the investigations say they are unlikely to lead to charges.
But Fulds once-lofty stature has been damaged. A report by the auditor of the Lehman bankruptcy was critical of the firms finances during its final months, saying it had engaged in accounting gimmicks to disguise problems. The use of these gimmicks is at the heart of investor lawsuits and the NY Attorney General probes.
Of course, Fuld may have a business reason to at least soften his image through a book that provides a first-hand account of Lehmans implosion: he has set up shop as a business consultant, and according to people with knowledge of his activities, hes having a difficult time winning clients given his reputation as the CEO who led Lehman into bankruptcy.