As suited City workers laden with cardboard boxes left their glass and steel monuments to the free market for the last time, Bloomberg, the cable channel for traders, solemnly replaced its continuous on-screen ticker-tape share price updates with "Lehman staff clear desks, call head hunters, weep".
Meanwhile, "The biggest personal loser has to be [Lehman CEO] Richard Fuld," the New York Sun reported. "The Fed decided to bail out virtually every other sizeable financial institution in America, but somehow left Lehman off the list. He must be wondering - wrong zip code? Bad tie choice?" But Fuld must have taken some solace in the fact that he left the bank with a $22 million "golden parachute" payoff. Not bad for a loser.
Gambling CEOs seem to have found a silver lining in the cloud of financial ruin. Charles Prince of Citigroup said that "the only honourable course to take" was for him to step down last November after the bank's value halved. He left with an honourable $68 million. Meanwhile Angelo Mozito of Countrywide Financial charitably gave up his $36.4 million severance, but kept the $121.5 million "earned" through cashing in his stocks as the institution's value crashed from $25 billion to $2.5 billion.
Jimmy Cayne of Bear Stearns was coy about his company's financial woes (he was incommunicado at bridge tournaments both last year when the bank's first losses were announced and again in March for its bailout by JP Morgan). He walked off with $600 million "earnings", plus $61.3 million severance. The AIG CEOs left with $69 million between them, while Stanley O'Neal (Merrill Lynch) pocketed $161.5 million for his spectacular failure.
Meanwhile the US taxpayer has to pick up the bill for the mass bailout of the banking system, a bill which could reach $1 trillion.