Sticking it to Lehman?

Emma Haslett on why we should feel sorry for the victims of the latest banking meltdown

The downfall this weekend of one of the world’s largest investment banks, the near-collapse of another, and the ensuing financial chaos caused by both, seems to have provoked two main emotions.

Firstly, devastation – mainly from the soon-to-be impoverished bankers whose careers/financial stability/mortgage prospects have gone down to the toilet, thanks to the collapse.

Secondly, indifference – mainly from pretty much everyone else.

The indifferent reaction (as exemplified by my phone call with a friend yesterday, which went along the lines of: “Did you know some of the managing directors have lost literally millions because most of their bonuses were paid in company stock which is now utterly worthless and they’re pretty much ruined?” “No. Do you think Fern Britten looks a bit like Yoda now she’s thin?”) is presumably provoked by the fact that most people have difficulty finding sympathy for the over-paid, over-inflated egos of people whose brogues are generally worth more than the average family car.

The problem is, it’s not just the bankers affected by the collapse of Lehman Brothers. While the newly redundant workers probably won’t be needing government aid packages just yet, a raft of small businesses associated with the companies will see a huge downturn. The Times mentions the plight of Sphinx Patterson, a personal trainer who ‘until yesterday’ ran fitness classes for the bank’s employees, but is now out of a job.

Trevor Chelsea, a butcher at the Smithfield meat market, told the newspaper his business would also suffer. “We supply to restaurants in the City and when people lose their jobs there, they’ll stop eating out,” he said. “It’s not just the bankers who will be hurt, but all the people in the places where they spend their money.”

Even dog walkers have been hit. Lucy Kennedy, who runs a dog-walking business in Kensington, ‘lost business almost immediately. A Lehman employee had phoned that morning to tell her that he no longer needed a professional to look after his poodle. “I’ve also had customers who have decided to get their dogs re-homed,”‘ she lamented to the newspaper.

Still. If you are one of the unlucky ones hit by the collapse, try banana wholesale. Apparently, the industry is thriving. “The only trading taking place in the Lehman Brothers building yesterday was in the canteen,” explained The Times. “One employee used up the remaining money on his swipe card to buy 30 bananas.”


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