Lehman Brothers had humble origins, tracing its roots back to a small general store that was founded by German immigrant Henry Lehman in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1844. In 1850, Henry Lehman and his brothers, Emanuel and Mayer, founded Lehman Brothers. While the firm prospered over the following decades as the U.S. economy grew into an international powerhouse, Lehman had to contend with plenty of challenges over the years. Lehman survived them all – the railroad bankruptcies of the 1800s, the Great Depression of the 1930s, two world wars, a capital shortage when it was spun off by American Express in 1994, and the Long Term Capital Management collapse and Russian debt default of 1998. However, despite its ability to survive past disasters, the collapse of the U.S. housing market ultimately brought Lehman Brothers to its knees, as its headlong rush into the subprime mortgage market proved to be a disastrous step. As the credit crisis erupted in August 2007 with the failure of two Bear Stearns hedge funds, Lehman's stock fell sharply. During that month, the company eliminated 2,500 mortgage-related jobs and shut down its BNC unit. In addition, it also closed offices of Alt-A lender Aurora in three states. Even as the correction in the U.S. housing market gained momentum, Lehman continued to be a major player in the mortgage market. In 2007, Lehman underwrote more mortgage-backed securities than any other firm, accumulating an $85-billion portfolio, or four times its shareholders' equity. In the fourth quarter of 2007, Lehman's stock rebounded, as global equity markets reached new highs and prices for fixed-income assets staged a temporary rebound. However, the firm did not take the opportunity to trim its massive mortgage portfolio, which in retrospect, would turn out to be its last chance. Lehman Scandal Lehman scandal involves the use of an...
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