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Mayer Lehman Brothers' long history began with three brothers,
immigrants from Germany, setting up a small shop in Alabama, selling
groceries and dry goods to local cotton farmers. Their business soon evolved
into cotton trading. Dick Fuld made a series of acquisitions, designed to
lessen Lehman's dependence on fixed-income trading, and focus attention
on mergers and acquisitions, investment banking and raising capital. He
began the process of restructuring the company so that it consisted of three
major operating units: investment banking, equities and fixed income. He
refocused the company's activities on high-margin business such as
mergers and acquisitions, bringing in experienced senior staff to manage the
business. The description of the company's activities reflected both
the move away from fixed income trading, and Fuld's ambitions for
This chapter examines the regulation of the Big Five investment banks in the
context of the changes which took place in the structure of banking after
the repeal of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act 1999 (GLBA). It also examines the
introduction of the European Union's Consolidated Supervision Directive
in 2004. The Act did not 'repeal' the Glass-Steagall Act in its
entirety, but only repealed sections 20 and 32, which prohibited member
banks from affiliating with organizations dealing in securities. The Federal
Reserve became the 'umbrella' supervisor for any Financial Holding
Company owning a bank; under its 'streamlined supervision' remit,
the Federal Reserve was limited in its day-to-day authority to oversee
functionally regulated non-banking subsidiaries of the holding companies.
Though the Securities and Exchange Commission had adequate tools and
statutory backing for taking on the consolidated supervision of the Big Five
investment banks, its inability to carry out effective supervision was
On 10 September 2008, Dick Fuld presented what would be the firm's last
earnings report, announcing the loss of $3.9bn, the second quarterly loss
that had increased from the previous quarter's loss of $2.8bn. It also
released some plans and proposed actions, which included the increase in
total stockholders' equity, spin-off of certain commercial real estate
assets, and a potential deal with a Korean sovereign wealth fund. All of the
proposed actions were no more than plans, as opposed to completed deals or
agreements. Just two days after Mayer Lehman filed for Chapter 11, Barclays
announced that it would acquire Lehman Brothers North American investment
banking and capital markets operations and supporting infrastructure. That
included Lehman Brothers' New York headquarters and two data centres,
all for $1.75bn, a price which the New York Times described as a 'fire
sale' and which was much less than Lehman expected.