Clive Crook says bankruptcy would have been better for the stockholders:
Bankruptcy would surely have recovered more value for shareholders than this give-away-but the Fed evidently feared that closure and disposal of Bear’s assets would have jeopardized other parts of the country’s teetering financial system. Preventing that was the Fed’s overriding goal. The firm had to be acquired in a hurry, shored up, and then run, so far as counterparties were concerned, as though nothing had happened. By any measure, Bear Stearns was not that big: it was surely not “too big to fail”.
Megan argues most everyone is to blame:
There's a certain amount of moral outrage floating around in the punditocracy, looking for a solid target. The implication is that someone, or at least some small group of people, must have done this to us in the course of feeding their insatiable greed. I'm sure there will be a post-mortem in which some reporter will tell a very convincing story about how this could all have been averted if only someone had Made A Rule. It may be Bear's managers who should have done it, or the Fed, or the SEC. I don't know who the culprit will be, but I am very sure that everyone else will be very sure that Someone could have (and should have) prevented all this.
Before we enter into the orgy of blame, I'd suggest that that someone was everyone, almost. Crazy Asian people who thought America was some sort of Miracle Market sent us more money than we needed for investment, inflating an asset price bubble. The Federal Reserve, complacent after more than twenty years of tame inflation, added a little kerosene to an already blazing fire. Silly people decided that real estate prices would continue rocketing upwards forever, and took on ridiculous mortgages that they had no reasonable hope of paying off. Idiot bankers thought that their enormous brains, raffish good looks, and advanced computer models had enabled them to conquer risk.
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