Wall Street has one basic question for Dick Fuld.
What do you want?
As CEO of Lehman Brothers in 2008, Richard Fuld presided over one of the most stunning failures in modern finance. This week, at his first public appearance in around six years, he said that his firm actually wasn't crumbling all those years ago.
"I have always said, and now it's being proven, Lehman Brothers in September 2008 was not bankrupt," said Fuld at the Marcum MicroCap Conference in midtown Manhattan on Thursday.
But that's hardly the point anymore. From now on when bankers talk about the harbinger of any unmitigated disaster they'll call it, "a Lehman moment." That's Fuld's legacy now. And perhaps that's why he's back.
During the Q&A, Fuld was asked why he didn't just "ride into the sunset."
Fuld, called 'The Gorilla' during his career for his ferocious disposition, responded jokingly: "Why don't you bite me?"
Then he went on to say, seriously, "I didn't think I had a choice."
Perhaps he didn't. But his peers certainly do.
This is Wall Street, a place where track records have been tarnished for far less than losing a more than a century old firm in the face of doom. Comebacks take time. Even junk-bond king turned convicted-criminal Michael Milken had to wait a while before he reentered public life — and his transgressions made people rich.
Fuld, alternatively, did not.
"A lot of people who worked at Lehman lost their life savings," one ex-Lehmanite told Business Insider's Jonathan Marino at Fuld's speech.
Others complained that Fuld showed no remorse and that he had a very selective memory when it came to Lehman's risk management and culture.
"I was blessed with a terrific team, for the most part. We were in it together," Fuld said. "It's wonderful for me to talk about the culture ... But then, you have the right to ask me 'then, OK, if it was so great, what happened at the end?'"
And what's been happening since?
According to Fox Business News' Charles Gasparino, Fuld started another firm called Matrix Advisors in 2009 and has been spending his time trying to do deals. One deal, wrangling investors for a company called In The Car, ended in disaster. A 57-year-old man ended up taking his life after his wife lost her $650,000 investment.
Fuld didn't talk about his future plans at the Marcum conference, but simply being there implied that he has them. In an industry where some people go to great lengths to avoid the press, to fly under the radar, making public statements means only one thing. It means you want something.
So what is it?
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