Lehman Employees' Final Hours at the Firm

“Some were crying. Some were drinking beer. Some were doing shots of tequila”

Lehman Employees' Final Hours at the Firm
Mo Grimeh and Masa Serdarevic recount the end of Lehman (AP Photo(2); Getty Images(2); Reuters(1); Rex USA(1))
AP Photo(2); Getty Images(2); Reuters(1); Rex USA(1)

Sept. 15, 2008: Lehman’s 25,000 employees waken to the news that they likely no longer have jobs

Ysa Perez for Bloomberg Businessweek

Mo Grimeh
Then: Global head, emerging markets, New York
Now: Head, global markets/Americas, Standard Chartered Bank

Sometime around Sunday, 4 o’clock or 5 o’clock, we started getting e-mails saying the deal is dead: no Barclays. We’re gonna file. And that’s where the panic reached a peak. If the bank was going to file for bankruptcy, we wouldn’t be able to enter the building on Monday morning. That’s really the reason everybody headed back to 745 Seventh Ave.: to collect whatever personal items they might have. The trading floor was packed, but people were not working. Some were crying. Some were drinking beer. Some were doing shots of tequila. Most of them were smoking. There was total chaos. I just saw a lot of people packing boxes, taking pictures of their families, clients’ business cards. The girls were just packing boxes and boxes of shoes. I discovered that most females tend to have multiple pairs of shoes under their desks. I had no idea until that day. —As told to Kyle O’Donnell

Photograph by Kenneth O'Halloran

Masa Serdarevic
Then: Analyst, mergers and acquisitions, London
Now: Freelance journalist

Going into the weekend, nobody really knew that much. We were less in the loop than New York. It was my mum who told me Lehman had filed for bankruptcy. She was coming back from a business trip and landed at Heathrow at 5:30 or 6 a.m. I didn’t stress out too much about getting into work early. I took a lot of weekend bags and a camera and headed off to our offices on Canary Wharf at a fairly leisurely pace. I dialed into a conference call. It was over pretty quickly: “Great working with you all and goodbye.” Everybody was clearing their desk and forwarding e-mails to their personal accounts. Then the whole system froze. People were walking around with huge amounts of food that they’d bought from the restaurant downstairs using the balances left over on their IDs. We felt slightly under siege; outside there were about 20 photographers standing by the front door. That night, a friend and I went to an auction at Sotheby’s. Damien Hirst’s calf in formaldehyde sold for £10 million. It seemed like a fitting end to a crazy day. —As told to Cristina Lindblad

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