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Felix Salmon disputes Andrew Ross Sorkin's contention that Dick Fuld has been "practically exonerated" by a bankruptcy expert:

The blog entry is here, and the court filing therein is simply dispatched by Sam Jones:

It is disingenuity of the highest order to suggest that banks like Lehman were passive victims of a stormy market. Their actions created the stormy market in the first place. Dick Fuld's Lehman reaped what it sowed.

In fact, the filing actively celebrates all the risks that were taken by Fuld and Lehman in the years leading up to the collapse, talking about Lehman's "four consecutive years of record-breaking financial results" between 2004 and 2007, and citing with admiration Lehman's soaring share price.

Leave aside Fuld's strategic decisions, about which there will be long debate.  Here's one thing you simply cannot excuse him for:  by all accounts, he didn't bother selling out because that would have meant surrendering the executive office, and this he could not bear to do.  Instead, he played chicken with the markets and the Fed.  The result was a bankruptcy that wiped out the shareholders to whom he owed a fiduciary duty, touched off a massive financial panic, etc. 

I'm sure he had no idea that Reserve Primary would break the buck, markets would lock, massive layoffs would ensue, and half the journalists in DC would be spending their evenings debating just how low you can turn the thermostat before the pipes freeze.  But he certainly knew that he was risking the future of thousands of employees and the shareholders who employed him because he liked to see the letters "CEO" after his name.  To add insult to injury, as I blogged earlier, he's now playing shell games with his assets, trying to ensure that the shareholders who sue him can't cut kick him out of the mansion he bought with their money.

Exonerated?  Like OJ, maybe.

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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