Rebuilding lives, 10 years after Lehman's fall
* Every day this week Reuters will provide an expert guide
has changed and what has not since the collapse of Lehman
Brothers in 2008. For a graphic on the financial crisis and its
aftermath, click on https://tmsnrt.rs/2wRXjI1
* For a photo essay, click on https://reut.rs/2MjFUgg
By William Schomberg
LONDON, Sept 11 (Reuters) - It is an image that became a
symbol of the global financial crisis -- about 20 bankers, their
backs turned to the window, attending an emergency meeting at
the London office of Lehman Brothers as the firm slid towards
Gwion Moore, one of those pictured in the Reuters photograph
taken on Sept. 11, 2008, recalled how the growing sense of panic
in financial markets contrasted with the mood inside the
building at the time.
"It was almost a festival atmosphere at the bank. We weren't
doing any business. But people were still coming to work and
just chatting to each other," Moore said.
The photograph caught the moment when he and his colleagues
were being told by bosses that things were going to be OK,
despite the plummeting Lehman Brothers share price.
"Senior management thought they needed to get the workforce
focused again," Moore said. "The phrase was stop 'goofing around
and get back to work'. I don’t think anyone took the message
very seriously because we went back to doing what we had been
doing beforehand. No one was going to trade with us."
Within four days, the U.S. government chose not to save the
bank, intensifying the already widespread chaos in markets that
brought the financial system to its knees and tipped the world
economy into a deep recession.
Moore's department -- European fixed income -- was not among
the parts of Lehman Brothers that were sold to other banks. Two
weeks after the firm's collapse, his security card stopped
working and he was laid off.
Moore spent six months unemployed before finding a job as a
fund manager. He now works in his native Australia.
The crisis also shook up the life of Eric Lipps, a U.S.
public sector worker, who appeared in another well-known Reuters
photograph from the period.
In late 2009, he was pictured in a long line of people
seeking to meet potential employers at a jobs fair in New York.
At the time, the U.S. unemployment rate had soared to 10
percent, its highest level since the early 1980s.
Lipps, wrapped up against the cold in a beige raincoat,
looked directly into the camera, his face appearing to reflect
the despondency of many people at the time.
"Mercifully I had money so I wasn't going to be
hand-to-mouth," Lipps said. "Still it was a little nervous time
because I didn't know how long I was going to be unemployed."
He was hired again a few months later as a child support
enforcement officer in New York, a job he continues to hold.
Alistair Darling, who was Britain's finance minister 10
years ago, recalled how his warnings of a looming disaster for
the economy, made shortly before the Lehman crash, had generated
howls of protest from economists and fellow politicians.
"But I could see the rupture in the financial system was
quite catastrophic," he said.
For Darling, now a Labour member of the upper house of
Britain's parliament, the damage done by the crisis in Britain
was all the greater for the decision taken in 2010 by the newly
elected Conservative-led government to aim for the eradication
of the country's budget deficit in only five years.
"What is commonly called austerity has prolonged the
downturn. It has taken far, far longer to see a recovery and of
course the process is by no means complete," he said.
Indeed, for many, the damage wrought by the near-meltdown in
the world's financial system and the subsequent debt crisis in
many European countries remains deep.
Jose Manuel Abel bade farewell to his wife and children and
left his native Spain in 2012 after losing his job. He worked
doing low-paid jobs in Germany before returning to Spain last
He now has a temporary job as a waiter, working 17 hours a
day, but he expects to be laid off once the summer tourists stop
coming to Chipiona, a coastal town near Cadiz on Spain's
southern Atlantic Coast.
Unemployment in Spain peaked at nearly 27 percent in early
2013 before falling back to just over 15 percent in the second
quarter of this year -- still much higher than in many other
countries, even five years into an economic recovery.
"I'm working as a waiter and I don't have a problem with
that because I think that any kind of job is respectable," Abel
said. "I have studies, training and I intend to use them in the
He is also working with friends to set up a local political
party which will contest municipal elections in 2019.
"I don't want my kids to suffer and live what I had to live
through," Abel said. "I don't want to them to migrate and to
look for a job opportunity away from this marvellous place."
(Reporting by William Schomberg in London, Shannon Stapleton in
New York and Miguel Gutierrez Rosas in Chipiona, Spain; Writing
by William Schomberg; Editing by Catherine Evans)
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