Tags: Ben | Bernanke | Straightforward | Lehman | Fed

Bernanke Says He Wasn’t ‘Straightforward’ on Lehman

Thursday, 02 Sep 2010 10:49 AM

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said he regretted not saying in congressional testimony shortly after the failure of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in 2008 that the central bank had no way to save the firm.

The testimony at the time “has supported this myth that we did have a way of saving Lehman,” Bernanke said in response to questions during a Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission hearing in Washington today.

“I regret not being more straightforward there because clearly it has supported the mistaken impression that in fact we could have done something.”

Bernanke made the remarks to explain the disparity between his September 2008 testimony that the Fed and Treasury “declined to commit public funds to support the institution” and later statements that the government had no option to save Lehman because of inadequate collateral. The Fed decided at the time against saying Lehman was unsalvageable because it may have risked further panic in financial markets, Bernanke said today.

“It was a judgment at that moment, with the system in tremendous stress and with other financial institutions under threat of a run or panic, that making that statement might have even reduced confidence further and led to further pressure,” Bernanke said today.

In September 2008, Bernanke told the Senate Banking Committee that the Fed and Treasury “declined to commit public funds to support the institution” and that investors and counterparties had enough time to prepare for the firm’s failure.

The bankruptcy intensified the worst financial crisis and recession since the Great Depression. Bernanke said he believed that a Lehman failure would have been “catastrophic” and that the government, which was trying to arrange a private merger, should do all it could to avert that outcome.

“This is my bread and butter,” said Bernanke, a former Princeton University economist who studied the Great Depression before joining the Fed as a governor in 2002.

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Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said he regretted not saying in congressional testimony shortly after the failure of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in 2008 that the central bank had no way to save the firm. The testimony at the time has supported this myth that we...
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2010-49-02
Thursday, 02 Sep 2010 10:49 AM
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