This content is not available in your region

Five years after Lehman bankruptcy, risks remain to banking system

Five years after Lehman bankruptcy, risks remain to banking system
Text size Aa Aa

It is five years ago since the collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers, which was the symbolic moment of the financial crisis.

The bonus-obsessed risky behaviour of many there – and at other banks – triggered the global economic downturn that left millions out of work and taxpayers worldwide shelling out billions to rescue those companies and stop a meltdown of the entire system.

The debate on how to hold senior bank bosses to account for failures remains unresolved.

That debate centres on people like Lehman’s former chief executive Dick Fuld, who personally lost some money but who remains seriously wealthy.

Wall Street expert Professor John Coffee of Columbia Law School said some of the industry’s problems have been addressed through new laws but many remain: “We have made some progress but it’s very modest, it’s very uneven.

“And I think there is no question that there are a number of financial institutions that are too big to fail in the sense that if there was a linked collapse of several of these, it would bring down the rest of the system and we would be back in a recession or depression equal to 1932.”

Analysts say it has also has been difficult for regulators to implement some of the changes in the law that followed the crisis.

They include moves to bulk up banks’ cash reserves and to bar them from engaging in risky trading on their own account, to hopefully avoid taxpayer-funded bailouts.

So there is now less risk, but still a long way to go, and worldwide, confidence in the banking system remains low.