NPR logo What Does Lehman Brothers' Collapse Mean To Me?


What Does Lehman Brothers' Collapse Mean To Me?

I've been getting e-mails: What does this mean for me?

Answer: Nothing. We hope.

If you are asking the question, then I assume you don't work for Lehman Brothers and you don't have a lot of money invested in Lehman stock. I assume that you don't work for one of the other big Wall Street firms (there are only two left: Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs).

If you're not directly feeling the wake, the only big way Lehman Brothers would affect you is if it caused a global financial system breakdown.

That is possible, by the way. But unlikely.

We already established that Lehman is not big enough, in itself, to crash the global economy.

But there is a scary scenario that could — but, we think, won't — play out.

Our friend Nouriel Roubini has the full, ugly details.

The fear is that the people all over the world who invest in other banks — especially the last two standing Wall Street investment banks — will wake up today and say to themselves, "Forget this. I just don't trust banks. I'm selling my stock and buying a gold mine in Chile (or whatever)."

This is like the classic bank runs that helped cause the Great Depression. People lose confidence in any institution and sell, sell, sell.

No bank, no matter how strong (and no big bank is all that strong these days), can survive such a collapse of confidence.