Former Lehman Brothers Chief Executive Dick Fuld has no problem discussing his long career on Wall Street, as long as he can side step what most people view as the defining moment of his career: Fuld’s role in the firm’s 2008 bankruptcy.
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At least that’s the word from several people who attended a private dinner Fuld sponsored on Sunday October 4 at Angus Prime, an upscale steakhouse in New York City. Fuld was speaking to about 50 people, the vast majority of them business school students enrolled at the University of Colorado-Boulder, where he graduated some 46 years earlier.
The students, according to several who spoke to FOX Business, said they thought they were going to hear insights into how Fuld handled the events that led to Lehman’s 2008 bankruptcy, which sparked the broader collapse on the nation’s banking system that year.
Instead, attendees told FOX Business they received a somewhat dull and discursive overview of his more than four decades in the financial business, including his current role as head of a small investment-banking firm Matrix Advisors, while eliding his role at Lehman during those tumultuous times.
“It was clear he didn’t want to go anywhere near Lehman’s bankruptcy, which is what most people came to hear,” said one of those students who attended.
The dinner marks the second major appearance by Fuld since Lehman’s 2008 collapse as he attempts to rebuild his Wall Street career and post-Lehman reputation. Earlier this year, he spoke at a conference for micro-cap stocks, where he also largely glossed over many of the details of his role at Lehman Brothers during its final days.
Fuld didn’t return a telephone call for comment.
In a statement, David Ikenberry, the Dean of University of Colorado-Boulder’s business school, told FOX Business: “The event hosted by Dick Fuld for CU-Boulder Leeds School of Business students in Manhattan this week was part of our Career Treks program, which facilitates career-centered interactions between business leaders, experts and Leeds students. Mr. Fuld has hosted Career Trek events before, including last year. Both last and this year, he placed no restrictions on the questions students could ask him and had a lively exchange with our students on a variety of issues. As Dean at Leeds, I trust our students to draw their own conclusions and make their own judgments about these interactions.”
After Lehman’s 2008 bankruptcy, Fuld was regarded as a Wall Street pariah. For a time, he was affiliated with a company called Legend Securities, which focuses on lightly regulated micro-cap companies also known as “penny stocks.” Brokerage records show that he left Legend at the end of 2011, and now lists Matrix, a boutique investment-banking outfit located in New York City, as his principal place of employment.
Of the deals he has done at Matrix, the vast majority appear to consist of tiny financings, such as the sale of the National Stock Exchange, and more speculative ventures like his involvement in a controversial company called In The Car, which was the focus of a FOX Business investigation earlier this year.
Meanwhile, friends say Fuld still privately bristles at the popular post-financial crisis narrative that the decision to invest in risky real estate deals while he was CEO was the sole cause of Lehman's collapse. Instead, Fuld takes pride in the fact that he built the firm into a Wall Street powerhouse before its collapse, which he largely blames on government officials who didn’t extend bailout money to Lehman as they did to other banks.
Still none of this was something Fuld appeared willing to dwell on at the University of Colorado event, according to people who were there. “He seemed really uncomfortable,” said one student who heard his speech. “He rambled for about 40 minutes it seemed about everything but Lehman.”
The student also said that Fuld told them he would be willing to recruit people to work at Matrix when they graduated. It’s unclear if anyone took him up on the offer.
After Fuld and some of the Matrix executives mingled with students, dinner was served. This student said at one point Fuld was prodded by one of his assistants to sit at a table with students. “When people started to ask him questions, he seemed anxious and then left the table and sat with a couple of his employees,” the student said. “It was odd.”