The message delivered to shocked Lehman Brothers staff on Monday was simple and direct.
“It’s over,” announced Christian Meissner to a morning staff gathering just a week after being appointed to run Lehman Brothers in Europe. He told the staff to look for new work and “move on”.
Staff had little choice but to follow suit in Lehman’s offices around the globe as they came to terms with the reality of the vertiginous collapse of the 158-year-old institution, leaving workplaces with belongings hastily collected and their savings depleted.
The mantra of Lehman Brothers was to pay its staff in stock – some 30 per cent of the bank’s equity was held by employees and many bonuses were paid in shares. Now those holdings are all but worthless.
Some staff were also told not to expect a paycheck at the end of the month and that they might even be liable for expenses on their corporate credit cards.