The Scene at Lehman Brothers London on Friday [Updated]

by Joey deVilla on September 15, 2008

My friend Miss Fipi Lele tells me that the photo below was taken Friday — it’s a shot of the London office of Lehman Brothers in Canary Wharf. Note the gathering in the window on the upper right and the body language of everyone except the guy on the left in the khaki pants:

A lineup of stuffed shirts as seen through the windows of Lehman Brothers' London Office.
Photo courtesy of Miss Fipi Lele.

In my experience of working at small-to-medium-sized software companies, there are two reasons for the sort of impromptu all-hands gathering like the one pictured above, where everyone is called into the biggest room in the place and stands while one of the C-level people makes an announcement:

  • The company has done well and has either acquired another company or been acquired by another company, or
  • “Game over, man.”

Lehman filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy today, so the meeting is probably of the latter type. This article says that they’re in debt to the tune of 613 billion dollars to various banks in Tokyo, Hong Kong, New York, Singapore and Taipei.

Some quick thoughts:

  • Looking at khaki guy’s clothes — and the fact that he’s in khakis while everyone else is in “regulation charcoal business pants” — and body language, I think he’s got a backup plan.
  • It’s probably a good thing those windows don’t open.
  • I’m wondering what kind of impact that the implosion of yet another major financial house is going to have on me in both the short and long term.
  • I’m reminded of the Simpsons episode in which Homer becomes the coach of the school football team: “You’re cut, you’re cut, you’re cut, you’re cut…”
  • Maybe the truly dangerous “LHC” isn’t the Large Hadron Collider, but the Lehman Holdings Collapse.
  • One wag who saw the photo posed an interesting rhetorical question: “What happens when you put frat boys in charge of one of the world’s largest banks?” Having worked for at least one irresponsible frat boy, I think the question’s got some merit.

Update

For more on the Lehman layoffs, see this entry.

Update 2

Sal and Richard from Howard Stern making out in front of Lehman Brothers on CNN

Hot man-on-man action outside the Lehman Brothers New York office!

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Lucky Archer September 15, 2008 at 1:28 pm

Putin’s Soviet Stable Sums are behind the collapse of American Banking. They hide all out stolen savings here in their relics and chains! Greek Benaki ships brought slaves to New Orleans to be traded by Lehman of Alabama. Greek Benaki built the first Greek church in America, in New Orleans.

Jayme September 15, 2008 at 1:31 pm

What a great photo! I’ll bet Khaki Guy is a contractor. The Tense Body Language People are probably all perm. I’ve been in Khaki Guy’s shoes. There’s nothing more awkward, yet simultaneously exhilarating, than witnessing the Big Company Announcement as a contracter. You know it will have little impact on you personally (but a huge impact on the people you’ve worked with).

Joey deVilla September 15, 2008 at 1:31 pm

@Lucky Archer: I can’t understand your crazy moon language!

Bob Kleppin September 15, 2008 at 2:02 pm

Been in that crowd myself a few times over my career. That is one great picture.

Luca September 15, 2008 at 6:17 pm

I’ve been an investment banker in London, and here’s my read:
– Fridays (especially in summertime) are dress down days. Khaki guy is the only one who does not have an interview somewhere else lined up for the rest of the day;
– As a result of the previous point, his right knee is twitching incontrollably, but he’s desperately trying to control his upper body.

Joey deVilla September 15, 2008 at 9:17 pm

@Luca: I like your interpretation!

I was wondering if the “Casual Friday” concept made it across the pond. British businessmen seem a bit bolder in their choice of shirt colours than their North American counterparts, IMHO.

irspariah September 15, 2008 at 9:44 pm

They’re getting ready to jump!

Chui September 15, 2008 at 10:12 pm

We are all – for better or worse – interdependent, and whatever schadenfreude we feel would only double back upon us when the consequences of the collapse spread further.

Perhaps a spell of unemployment will help these people reflect on they have not two, but three roles in life. First, as an employee; Secondly, as a family person (husband, wife, father, mother); and thirdly, as a citizen. The failure of America is not that Americans are lazy and failed to look after their employers, or failed to look after their families. It is because Americans have failed to look after their country, making sure that it is properly governed.

Костя Пермский September 16, 2008 at 10:57 am

Хорошие штаны залог успеха!

[Editor’s note: Babelfish translates this from the Russian as “Good pants the guarantee of success!” Da, tovarisch. Da.]

greg September 16, 2008 at 11:24 am

Liabilities of 613 billion != in dept to the tune of 613 billion….

They are still solvent . . . just not liquid

Joey deVilla September 16, 2008 at 11:37 am

@greg: Depends on your perspective: in accounting, liabilities are not necessarily debt, but financial economists and academics tend to refer to all liabilities as debt. I think that for the purposes of what I wrote and given the circumstances, my use of the word “debt” is reasonable.

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