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The eve of destruction: The fall of LTCM

Was it the summit meeting that saved world financial markets from Armageddon? Or was it the night on which Wall Street's crony capitalists, backed by the taxpayer, looked after their own - John Meriwether at Long-Term Capital Management? Whatever the interpretation, fear was in the air, and there wasn't much time to philosophize. David Shirreff reports on five days that shook the world. That's followed by a study of over-leverage, by Michelle Celarier, and another sad tale at UBS, by David Shirreff.

Collateral damage

Another fine mess at UBS

capital markets timeline cover

Tuesday September 22, 8:30pm

Apart from festive occasions, the fortress-like Federal Reserve Bank of New York has seldom hosted such an illustrious gathering of Wall Street heavy-hitters. It included Sandy Warner, chairman of JP Morgan; David Komansky, chairman of Merrill Lynch, and Herb Allison, its president; Frank Newman, chairman of Bankers Trust; Jon Corzine co-chairman of Goldman Sachs and Robert Katz, managing director; Deryck Maughan, co-CEO of Salomon Smith Barney; Allen Wheat chairman of Credit Suisse First Boston; Philip Purcell, chairman of Morgan Stanley; and Jimmy Cayne, president of Bear Stearns & Co, and Warren Spector, deputy president.

The occasion was far from festive. "I sensed a lot of fear in that room," recalls a participant.

The object of fear was Long-Term Capital Management (LTCM), a hedge fund that in four years had built up assets of close to $125 billion on a capital base of $4 billion. It says something for today's financial system that that in itself wasn't thought alarming. Banks were comforted by the fact that although LTCM's borrowings were huge, they were mostly collateralized, mainly with high-grade securities.

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