| LONDON, Sept 15
LONDON, Sept 15 From his 23rd floor office of
Citi's Canary Wharf tower, Tom Bolland can see the old European
HQ of Lehman Brothers, where five years ago hundreds of his
former colleagues were abruptly turfed out onto the street
carrying their belongings in boxes.
The investment bank's collapse was the symbolic moment of
the financial crisis, and it is a surprise to many that Lehman
Brothers in Europe still lives on. It is under administrators,
but two-thirds of its 500 staff are former Lehman employees
helping to clear up the mess that is left.
"You work for Lehman? I thought that went bust," Bolland
laughs at the typical response when he tells people he works for
Lehman Brothers. "Most people are still surprised."
Bolland is the most senior of the "ex-Lehmanites" and
recently celebrated 20 years with the bank - including 15 years
pre-crash in a range of senior roles, which included overseeing
its expansion in Russia, Turkey and the Middle East.
Now chief operating officer for Lehman Brothers
International Europe (LBIE), he and more than 350 others were
drafted in by Tony Lomas, joint administrator and PwC partner,
to accelerate the wind-down of the business and maximise the
assets that can be recovered.
"Yeah, you are working yourself out of a job. But you go out
with an enhanced CV. And if you were at Lehman before you go out
with your head held high, because you stayed and returned this
money to the creditors," Bolland told Reuters.
Lomas expects to repay creditors fully and said the
integration of LBIE staff with 200 PwC employees has been
crucial to that success.
They take up three floors in Citigroup's London tower,
less than 200 metres from the site Lehman occupied from April
2004 and now home to JPMorgan.
"A lot of people walked out with the cardboard box, but were
back in two days later," Bolland said. Many had not realised the
skills that administrators would need to unravel thousands of
complex trades across dozens of countries and legal entities.
That has included disputes with other parts of the former
Lehman group. In bankruptcy, each entity fights for itself.
"In the beginning it was a bit strange. People you had
worked with, you were disagreeing with and over time you were
negotiating with. There was no fundamental ill-will and if you
win a legal argument you win it, that's life. It's commercial,
not personal," Bolland said.
Finance, operations, legal, risk and asset valuation experts
all stayed, or were hired in the months after collapse.
Lehman's operations had also shared an IT system, but that
had to be separated and rebuilt.
"It was the biggest IT project Lehman had ever undertaken,
and we had to do inside the administration. It has been an
enormous task operationally, apart from the legal and valuation
issues and negotiations," Bolland said.
Staff have been paid at commercial rates. They know fewer
people will be needed as the major work slows and Bolland said
LBIE will have a lot fewer staff by the end of next year.
He said the work has been good experience for mid-level
staff, and "rewarding and satisfying" for the senior people.
"People were proud to work for Lehman. A lot of the people
who stayed on, part of the reason was to do the right thing."
For other stories on Lehman Brothers:
Five years after Lehman, risk moves into the shadows
In post-Lehman clean-up, top banker prosecutions stumble
Hedge funds reap rewards from bet on Lehman Europe carcass