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European Press Review: Fallout from the Lehman Brothers

After the Lehman Brothers collapse Monday, European media took an introspective look at both the causes and the consequences of the US' continuing credit crisis.

Street sign reading 'Boersenstrasse' or Exchange Street in front of a Lehman Brothers office building in Frankfurt

European media takes stock of what the bankruptcy means to the continent

Rome's La Repubblica saw something essentially American at the heart of the crisis. "This is the flipside of the 'American Dream': The American Nightmare. The Lehman catastrophe, which comes just two weeks after the government bailout of the two semi-private mortgage financiers Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, has caused panic in the financial sector. Though once considered unsinkable, the industry is watching the downfall of one 'Titanic' after another. This is an example of both the triumph and the inevitable -- and essential -- disaster that follows when a raving mad financial system without scruples turns beggars into billionaires and billionaires into beggars. There is no America without such disasters, which have destroyed the continent only to be rebuilt again."

"What's astounding in this crisis is the all-around naivete," wrote the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung Tuesday. "It's been there both at the beginning and at the end of this crisis -- the cause and effect of the turbulence all at once, with the heads of the institute behind it with their pretend ingenuity. Finally, it is Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers -- the high priests of smart flyover-banking with their doctrine of liquidation and fragmentation, fusion and diversification -- to go. And when the end came, they didn't look at themselves. Perhaps they never did. Nor did the state have any interest in the two, set in the belief that the good in money sometimes comes in hedge funds and credit securities rather than in deregulation."

High rise in London

Lehman Brothers' Canary Wharf offices in London were emptied Monday

While The Times of London took a more local perspective, running a piece highlighting the tremendous impact that the loss of Lehman Brothers and its 5,000 jobs has had on the British financial capital, the newspaper also sought to place blame. "Ask the reason for the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and you will find much of the answer in two words: Dick Fuld. Mr. Fuld has been the imperious chief executive of Lehmans, the fourth-largest investment bank in the United States, since 1994. (…) Mr. Fuld was an unapologetic mogul of Wall Street: He put down his colleagues in public; he was good at straight-talking, but not so practiced at straight-listening; and ultimately he deluded himself and those around him that, having seen off a brush with bankruptcy in the late 1990s, he and his bank had taken the precautions necessary to weather any financial storm."

Germany's Berliner Zeitung took a more reflective approach. “Even the biggest optimists have to stop and think when a financial institution like Lehman Brothers, whose history dates back to the mid-19th century and which has survived the Great Depression as well as the Second World War unscathed, will now likely disappear from the market. Those who have decided to accept the end of the Lehman Brothers will now have to realize the consequences of their actions. Perhaps they have simply come to the conclusion that the crisis cannot be handled by further national interference. But that would not exactly be reassuring."

Budapest's liberal-left newspaper Nepszabadsag likewise offered a pessimistic response to the drama. "The decisions of the American consumer influence the performance of global business in a much more meaningful capacity than we might've thought. The decrease in demand overseas has put the brakes on both the production in European enterprises and the national economies of the European Union's member states. After such giants begin to stagger or collapse, the ordinary consumers are now asking themselves: Who is next? (…) The credit crisis is not at an end. I'm afraid it's only just really begun."

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