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Lehman Brothers


Lehman Brothers was a global financial services firm, headquartered in New York and operating worldwide, majorly known for its business in investment banking. It was declared bankrupt in 2008, which was the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history and a major event in the global financial crisis. Today, Lehman Brothers is often cited as a symbol of the systemic risk that the banking sector can pose to the wider economy.


The phonetics of the keyword “Lehman Brothers” is: “Lee-muh n Bruh-thurz”

Key Takeaways

  1. Lehman Brothers was a global financial services firm, which filed for bankruptcy in 2008. This bankruptcy marked the largest in U.S history and it significantly contributed to the 2008 financial crisis.
  2. The company’s downfall was primarily due to its involvement in the subprime mortgage crisis, where they had immense exposure to the mortgage market. They had accumulated large amounts of toxic assets, and when the real estate bubble burst, they were left in a hazardous position.
  3. The failure of Lehman Brothers highlighted the systemic risk posed by large financial institutions. In the aftermath of its collapse, regulators worldwide moved to implement stricter banking regulations to reduce the risk of a similar occurrence in the future.


Lehman Brothers is a significant term in business/finance due to its pivotal role in the 2008 global financial crisis. As a major global financial services institution, Lehman Brothers was the fourth-largest investment bank in the United States before declaring bankruptcy in September 2008. The bankruptcy, the largest in U.S. history, was largely due to Lehman Brother’s heavy involvement in subprime mortgages, risky loans that began to default en masse as the housing market collapsed. This event dramatically intensified the financial crisis, leading to a global economic downturn. The name “Lehman Brothers” has since become synonymous with the reckless risk-taking and lack of oversight that characterized the pre-crisis financial industry, leading to significant regulatory changes worldwide.


Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. was a global financial services firm primarily involved in investment banking, trading and securities issuance, brokerage, asset management as well as various financial and wealth services for private and institutional clients. Established in 1850, its purpose was to facilitate capital market transactions, help raise finance for businesses, distribute risk, provide liquidity, and promote economic growth and efficiency by connecting investors and borrowers across the financial market. Illustrious for their role in financial services, they were considered one of the critical pillars in the global capital market. Their banking and wealth management services helped corporations, governments, and individual entities manage their financial resources better and undertake critical investment decisions strategically. However, the firm’s risky lending practices and significant exposure to subprime mortgages resulted in a devastating financial meltdown — chiefly culminating in its bankruptcy in 2008 — playing a crucial role in triggering the Global Financial Crisis.


1. Lehman Brothers Bankruptcy in 2008: This is perhaps the most infamous example related to Lehman Brothers. In 2008, the firm filed for bankruptcy due to their heavy investment in subprime mortgages without adequate risk management practices. This was the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history and was a major event that precipitated the global financial crisis. 2. Spin-off of Neuberger Berman: Before their collapse, Lehman Brothers had a successful asset management division called Neuberger Berman. In order to raise capital and focus on their core operations, Lehman decided to spin-off Neuberger Berman into a separate company. This allowed Neuberger Berman to separate from the financial woes of Lehman Brothers and continue operating successfully. 3. Barclays’ acquisition of Lehman Brothers’ North American division: After the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, parts of the company were sold off to other financial institutions. One notable example was the acquisition of Lehman’s North American division by UK-based Barclays. This allowed Barclays to significantly increase their operations in North America and helped them become a more global banking institution.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

Who were Lehman Brothers?
Lehman Brothers was a global financial services firm based in the USA. Before its bankruptcy in 2008, Lehman was the fourth-largest investment bank in the country.
When was Lehman Brothers founded?
Lehman Brothers was founded in 1850 by brothers Henry, Emanuel, and Mayer Lehman.
What services did Lehman Brothers provide?
Lehman Brothers provided various financial services, including investment banking, equity and fixed-income sales, research and trading, investment management, private equity, and private banking.
What event led to Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy?
Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy in 2008 due to a significant exposure to subprime mortgages and a high level of leverage. It was the largest victim of the U.S. subprime mortgage-induced financial crisis.
What was significant about Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy?
The bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers was the largest in U.S. history and it had a massive ripple effect on the global economy. It marked a significant turning point in the 2007-2008 global financial crisis.
How did Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy affect the global economy?
The bankruptcy triggered a drop in stock markets worldwide, billions in losses for investors and a contraction in credit markets which contributed to the Great Recession. It highlighted the systemic risk posed by large, interconnected financial institutions.
Who bought Lehman Brothers’ assets after their bankruptcy?
Most of Lehman Brothers’ North American operations were sold to Barclays, a British multinational investment bank. Its investment management division was sold to Neuberger Berman.
What were the failures identified in Lehman Brothers’ operations?
The key failures identified post the bankruptcy were the company’s excessive risk-taking with high leveraged assets, lack of transparency, failure of corporate governance, and lax regulatory oversight.
What impact did Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy have on financial regulations?
The bankruptcy led to calls for stronger financial regulation, resulting in comprehensive regulatory reform measures globally like Dodd-Frank Act in the US, designed to reduce systemic risk and prevent a repeat of such a crisis.
Does Lehman Brothers still exist today?
No, after its bankruptcy in 2008, Lehman Brothers was liquidated. However, the estate still exists and is in the process of paying back creditors from the bankruptcy proceedings.

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