You want to know how scary the Lehman collapse really was? Mohamed El-Erian, CEO and co-Chief Investment Officer of Newport Beach bond giant PIMCO, told his wife to go to the ATM and take as much cash as she could. As El-Erian tells Fortune:
When she asked why, I said it was because I didn't know whether there was a chance that banks might not open. I remember my wife sort of pausing and saying, "Are you serious?" And I said, "Yes, I am." We had long felt that the world was increasingly in disequilibrium, and by March of 2008 we decided that things were critical and that the unthinkable was thinkable. We went so far as to cancel everybody's holidays for the year, and as the Lehman weekend approached, it was all hands on deck.
This being the one-year anniversary of the bankruptcy, you can expect lots of thumb-suckers on what it all means, how we managed to survive the tumult, etc. But most compelling are the first-person narratives by people who really were in the trenches. Here's how Anne Erni, a former Lehman managing director, remembers it:
I thought Sunday night there was going to be good news, so I invited my parents over and got a cake. We had a barbecue. Around 6 p.m. we put on the TV to get an update and saw pictures of Lehman employees streaming out the front door with boxes. The news was reporting that BofA was merging with Merrill, and Lehman was bound to file for bankruptcy. I started to cry.