Two seemingly unrelated headlines hit the news in the past couple of days. The first is that Egypt wants to extradite a senior Muslim Brotherhood leader from Qatar. The second is that former CEO Dick Fuld claims that Lehman Brothers could have been saved.
Looking back seven years, we are reminded that the failure of Lehman Brothers triggered the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression. That much we know. But did Lehman have to fail? Dick Fuld, from his May 28 press conference (as reported in The New York Times):
Mr. Fuld also quickly offered three data points that he suggested made it clear that Lehman could have survived, had the Fed not forced it to fail: "When Lehman was mandated into bankruptcy, we said our equity capital was $28 billion. Second, we had a Tier 1 capital ratio of 11 percent. Third, Lehman had unencumbered collateral of $127 billion." …
After his formal remarks, a moderator pressed Mr. Fuld to answer questions about the last days of Lehman.
"It's very easy to look back. As they said, hindsight is 20/20. There is no ‘if' or ‘woulda coulda shoulda,' " he said. "You can only make a decision at any specific time with the best information that you think you have."
Going further, Mr. Fuld insisted that he could have saved the firm: "Lehman Brothers at the point of 2008 was not a bankrupt company."
Asked what he could have done differently, he avoided answering directly, and instead said, "I think I missed the violence of the market and how it spread from one asset class to the next. Did we do everything we could? Did we fall prey to some other agendas? I'll leave it at that."
As a reminder, Lehman Brothers was allowed to fail in mid September after coming under a vicious naked short selling and Credit Default Swap attack that began on September 11, 2008. Much of the naked short selling seemed to emanate from the Middle East through London. Some believe that Sovereign Wealth Funds were involved and that Barclays may have been a conduit.
Now, here is where it gets interesting.
First, in August 2007 Shariah Compliant Funds (SCF) began to adopt short selling tactics working with Barclays among others. At least one of the focal points was banks.
Second, sovereign wealth funds (SWF) in Qatar and UAE had major stakes in Barclays during the 2008 crisis. And these deals have involved a notable amount of scandal. Some believe that Barclays cut deals with the SWFs to avoid nationalization. In exchange, however, Barclays in essence deeded control of the London bank to the Middle East.
Third, the Qatari SWF had a Shariah scholar named Qaradawi. Qaradawi, a senior Muslim Brotherhood scholar, has been known as anti-Israel, anti-America, and anti-capitalism. To him, Lehman Brothers would be all of the above, historically Jewish, based in America, and a capitalist bank that practices usury–something forbidden by Sharia Law. And, he saw the Western financial collapse as demonstrating the superiority of Shariah:
"The collapse of capitalism based on usury and paper and not on the trading of goods on the market is proof that it is in crisis and shows the Islamic economic philosophy is holding up," prominent Egyptian-born Qatar-based cleric Sheikh Yussef al-Qaradawi told a recent conference in Doha.
Fourth, Shariah scholars have enormous power and leeway and seem unaccountable in a way that even some Muslims find objectionable. SCF is seen as too personality driven and there is no doubt that Qaradawi is a strong personality.
Fifth, it was the failure to rescue Lehman that triggered the crash. Bear Stearns had been saved months earlier without market disruption. That rescue was orchestrated with American-controlled JP Morgan Chase. But when Middle East-funded Barclays refused to step in and rescue Lehman, the collapse began.
Sixth, ultimately it was the lack of shareholder approval from Barclays that killed any deal. It's not that Barclays didn't want the Lehman assets. They did and bought them out of bankruptcy. But, they were unwilling to rescue Lehman. Everyone assumed that getting shareholder approval on such short notice would have been impossible. But we now know just how powerful the Sovereign Wealth Funds were in every Lehman decision. Did Qaradawi demand that Lehman fail? He certainly had the authority and would have been pleased with the outcome. And, he would have clearly opposed any rescue. Without Qatar's support, there was no chance for Barclay's to rescue Lehman.
Here are a few very recent thoughts on Qaradawi from Center for Security Policy:
Sheikh Yusuf Al- Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood chief jurist, has resided in Qatar for decades. However on May 26, 2015 Egyptian authorities requested Qatar extradite Qaradawi back to Egypt. Yusuf Qaradawi, followed by as many as 41 other Muslim Brotherhood officials, such as the former President of Egypt Mohammad Morsi, are awaiting the death penalty in Egypt. Following the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood government, Qaradawi issued a call for jihad in Egypt. Their convictions include, but are not limited to, murder, violence, inciting violence, theft, insulting the judiciary and escaping from jail. The Egyptian court will have their final decision on the matter June 2, 2015.
Yusuf Al- Qaradawi's background is far from clean, as his membership to the Muslim Brotherhood has led to multiple arrests. The Muslim Brotherhood has been the cause of many Egyptian crackdowns, such as the ones in 1949, 1954 and 1981. In Qaradawi's autobiography, each arrest and imprisonment experience is discussed with a sense of dignity and positivity, even comparing himself to the Quaranic story of Joseph. A similar sense of comfortableness is seen in Qaradawi's comments on the current charges he is facing, saying they are "worthless and undeserving of attention."
Yusuf Al- Qaradawi along with the other 41 Muslim Brotherhood Organization members facing charges can all be found on the Interpol, or the International Criminal Police Organization, wanted list. The addition of all these men to the wanted list is a good sign for Egypt. Leaders like the Chief of the Egyptian Police Interpol, Gamal Abdel Bary, commented saying this is "an important change in the international communities' view to the banned groups members."
Based on this, it is in no way a stretch to imagine that this man could have been the one to pull the trigger on the global economy. He is an admitted jihadist who would like to see the failure of the West. Now, he is also a wanted man.
[To get the full story of the 2008 stock market crash, read Secret Weapon; How Economic Terrorism Brought Down the U.S. Stock Market and Why It Could Happen Again.]