雷曼兄弟破产两周年记:十训

Background Music: Cora by Trevor Jones from The Last of the Mohicans O.S.T

题记:商业终究还是人之间的生意组成的.数学抽象了交易的过程,让很多交易员忘记了跟人打交道需要信用,而去设计一个套一个的圈套。最终用尽或者透支以前积累的所有声誉,毁灭了一个又一个伟大的名字。

雷曼兄弟(Lehman Brothers)的历史由两个截然不同的部分组成:其中一部分是一个移民家庭及其后代谱写了一段美国式的成功故事,另一部分是当代华尔街人士把他们的成功彻底葬送。我们或许可以把这个悲剧背后的教训称为“雷曼十训”。

第一,要始终留有退路。最初的雷曼兄弟是19世纪40年代从德国巴伐利亚移居美国的。他们先是在美国南部走街串巷兜售日用品,后来在阿拉巴马州的蒙哥马利当起了棉花经纪人,建立起自己的事业。美国内战临近时,他们拓宽了自己的选择,开始北上纽约,在那里建立了自己的银行。而2008年9月,雷曼最后一位掌门人迪克•富尔德(Dick Fuld)在等待毁灭来临之时,却没有这样的退路。

第二,政府里要有人。从泰迪•罗斯福(Teddy Roosevelt)到理查德•尼克松(Richard Nixon),雷曼兄弟跟历任美国总统都说得上话,但富尔德之流的债券交易员上世纪80年代接掌雷曼后,此类联络就中断了。这是些注重短线交易的商人,而不关心长期建立起来的关系。相比之下,自上世纪30年代以来,高盛(Goldman Sachs)一直呵护着与政府的关系。2008年危机爆发后,当小布什(Bush)政府的财政部长、高盛前掌门人汉克•保尔森(Hank Paulson)分发纾困资金时,他的老东家分得了很大一份,而雷曼兄弟却陷入倒闭。

第三,赫伯特•雷曼(Herbert Lehman)绝不会让这一悲剧发生。作为实业家、银行家和雷曼兄弟合伙人,赫伯特•雷曼曾任纽约州州长,与总统富兰克林•罗斯福(Franklin D. Roosevelt)一起打造了上世纪30年代的新政(New Deal)。他相信,银行倒闭将1929年的危机转变成了大萧条(Great Depression)。他不会让自己家族的银行或其它银行倒闭,而会拯救它们,严格监管它们。

第四,要做长线投资。雷曼兄弟为20世纪的美国提供了大量资金:泛美航空(Pan American Airways)、菲利普莫里斯公司(Philip Morris)、赫兹公司(Hertz Corporation)。通过西尔斯罗巴克(Sears and Roebuck)、伍尔沃斯(Woolworths)和纽约的梅西百货(Macy’s),它赞助了美国零售业的崛起。在好莱坞,《乱世佳人》(Gone with the Wind)等许多影片的背后都有雷曼的资金。但多年后,当雷曼兄弟落入急功近利、眼光短浅之辈手中后,所有这些都消失了。

第五,“掠夺和贪婪尽管横行,但崩盘的时刻终有一天会到来。”我们又说到了赫伯特•雷曼,这是时任纽约州参议员的他在1957年退休前不久谈及巨型企业的危险时说的话。今天的银行业奖金文化或许会让他不知该说什么好。

第六,要听老人言。皮特•彼得森(Pete Peterson)在1984年以前做了十年雷曼掌门人。他曾任尼克松政府的商务部长,是一位希望与欧洲和日本发展关系的谈判专家。彼得森手下的交易员认为他是一个令人无法容忍的话痨,于是把他赶下了台。这些人很快便失去了对雷曼的控制权,在接下来的10年里,雷曼的所有权一直掌握在美国运通(American Express)手中。彼特森则创建了私人股本公司百仕通(Blackstone),并成为一位亿万富翁。彼特森现已年逾八旬,他曾讲过,向他这样的“肥猫”提供减税是不道德的。

第七,要给自己找块心灵的净土。每天工作15个小时、收入丰厚的投资银行家们,对投资银行业以外的文化知之甚少。罗伯特•雷曼(Robert Lehman,昵称“博比”(Bobbie))当了40年的高级合伙人,直到1969年去世。他毕生爱好艺术,打造了美国最精美的私人收藏。这些收藏在纽约大都会博物馆(Metropolitan Museum)拥有自己的展厅。就在雷曼兄弟倒闭前不久,富尔德向现代艺术博物馆(Museum of Modern Art)一个展示Rothkos和其它作品的展厅提供了资助。但正如他当时所说,这么做主要是出于他妻子凯西(Kathy)的提议。它成了一做纪念碑,提醒着让人们世界本来可能的面目。

第八,不要笃信数学。博比•雷曼发掘出了像泛美的胡安•特里普(Juan Trippe)和电子业先驱企业斯顿工业(Litton Industries)的查尔斯•桑顿(Charles Thornton)这样的企业家。他曾说过,他的投资理念是“押注于人”。富尔德则押注于数学公式,特别是那些显示由次级抵押贷款支持的神秘金融工具不可能失败的公式。

第九,要重新引入开明的政府。雷曼兄弟的全盛时期出现在上世纪50年代繁荣的艾森豪威尔(Eisenhower)时代,那时公私合营是经济中理所当然的事。雷曼兄弟的覆灭则出现在一个私营部门排斥监管的时代。私营部门称自己最有头脑。事实并非如此。

第十,不要再兜售垃圾。资本主义如今的赚钱方式是押注于失败而不是押注于成功。正如英国《金融时报》上周所报道的,对冲基金经理乔治•索罗斯(George Soros)和约翰•保尔森(John Paulson)如今赚得比波音(Boeing)还多。如果不是靠做空上述稀奇古怪的金融工具赚了数十亿,他们就不会像现在这样富有。早年的雷曼兄弟是一家经营有实际价值的商品的企业。而倒闭的那个雷曼兄弟则是因为被发现在兜售垃圾才走上了绝路。

Ten lessons of a banking collapse, in Lehman’s terms

Background Music: The Courier by Trevor Jones from The Last of the Mohicans O.S.T

By Peter Chapman

Lehman Brothers had two distinct histories: one of a migrant family and its descendants who created an American success story, the other of the contemporary Wall Street types who threw it all away. Behind this sad tale lie what we might call the 10 lessons of Lehman.

1. Always have an exit route. The original brothers Lehman came to the US from Bavaria in the 1840s, peddling household goods on the byways of the south before setting up as cotton brokers in Montgomery, Alabama. As the American civil war approached, they widened their options and began moving north to New York, where they established their bank. In September 2008 the final head of Lehman, Dick Fuld, had no such alternatives as he waited for destruction to close in.

2. Be on the inside. Lehman Brothers had the ear of presidents from Teddy Roosevelt to Richard Nixon but lost such links when bond traders in the mould of Mr Fuld took over in the 1980s. These were merchants of fast transactions rather than long-built relationships. Goldman Sachs, on the other hand, has nurtured relations with government since the 1930s. When Hank Paulson, the Bush administration Treasury secretary and former head of Goldman, distributed bail-out funds after the crash of 2008, his old company won a generous share. Lehman Brothers went to the wall.

3. Herbert Lehman would never have let it happen. Industrialist, banker and partner at Lehman Brothers, Herbert Lehman was the governor of New York who with President Franklin D. Roosevelt built the New Deal of the 1930s. He believed bank failures turned the crash of 1929 into the Great Depression. Rather than letting his family bank or others go under, he would have saved and rigorously regulated them.

4. Invest long term. Lehman Brothers financed much of 20th-century America: Pan American Airways, Philip Morris, Hertz Corporation. It sponsored the rise of American retail through Sears and Roebuck, Woolworths and Macy’s of New York. In Hollywood, it was the money behind films such as Gone with the Wind. All that disappeared years later when it fell into the hands of short-termists intent on immediate profit.

5. “Grabbing and greed can go on for just so long, but the breaking point is bound to come sometime.” Herbert Lehman again, by now senator from New York and speaking of the perils of giant business shortly before he retired in 1957. Today’s banking bonus culture might have left him lost for words.

6. Listen to the old guy. Pete Peterson, head of Lehman Brothers for 10 years until 1984, had served as commerce secretary in the Nixon administration and was a skilled negotiator who wanted to foster links with Europe and Japan. His traders thought him an insufferable gasbag and threw him out. They promptly lost control of the bank to American Express, which owned Lehman for the next decade, while Mr Peterson became founder of Blackstone, the private equity company, and a billionaire. Now in his 80s, he has spoken of the immorality of providing tax cuts to “fat cats” like himself.

7. Get a hinterland. With their 15-hour days and enormous incomes, investment bankers have limited grasp of cultures beyond investment banking. Robert “Bobbie” Lehman, senior partner for 40 years until his death in 1969, had a lifelong love of art and built America’s finest private collection. It has its own wing in New York’s Metropolitan Museum. Mr Fuld sponsored a room of Rothkos and other works in the Museum of Modern Art shortly before Lehman Brothers went under. But, as he said at the time, this was mainly the initiative of his wife Kathy. It remains a monument to what might have been.

8. Don’t trust the maths. Bobbie Lehman discovered such entrepreneurs as Juan Trippe of Pan Am and Charles Thornton of Litton Industries, the electronics pioneer, and said of his investment philosophy that he “bet on the man”. Dick Fuld bet on the formula, notably the algebra that said arcane financial instruments backed by subprime mortgages could not fail.

9. Bring back enlightened government. Lehman Brothers was at its peak in the 1950s, the prosperous Eisenhower years when public and private partnership was an economic given. Lehman Brothers died at a time when regulation had been driven out by a private sector that said it knew best. It didn’t.

10. Stop selling rubbish. Capitalism now makes money by betting on failure rather than success. As the FT reported last week, George Soros and John Paulson, the hedge fund managers, bring in more than Boeing. They would not be so prosperous without the billions they made betting against the fanciful financial instruments mentioned above. The Lehman Brothers of old was an enterprise that dealt in goods of real value. The one that died did so when it was caught peddling junk.

The writer is on the FT staff and is author of The Last of the Imperious Rich: Lehman Brothers, 1844-2008, published this month by Portfolio/Penguin

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