As the court-appointed examiner in the bankruptcy case of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., 1965 Lawrence University graduate Anton “Tony” Valukas had an insider’s look at one of the reasons the country teetered on the brink of financial crisis in 2008.
Valukas, chairman of the Chicago law firm Jenner & Block, returns to his alma mater to discuss his involvement in what is believe to be the largest bankruptcy case in U.S. history this Thursday as part of the college’s Lawrence Scholars in Law program. He presents “Lawrence University to Lehman Brothers: A Journey” at 5:30 p.m. in the Warch Campus cinema. The presentation is free and open to the public.
A specialist in civil and white collar criminal litigation, Valukas spent more than a year searching through virtually every e-mail message at Lehman Brothers in search of evidence implicating a cover-up involving the accuracy of valuations on Wall Street that contributed to country’s financial meltdown.
In March, 2010, Valukas released a 2,200-page document detailing the inner workings of Lehman Brothers that indicated the firm’s financial books were manipulated through an accounting tactic known as “Repo 105.” The strategy involved “selling” assets, usually government securities, to another firm in exchange for cash, and then repurchasing them several days later. The value of the sold assets were typically 105 percent of the cash Lehman received in exchange.
According to Valukas’ report, Lehman Brothers was able to reduce its net balance sheet through its Repo 105 practice by more than $138 billion between the fourth quarter of 2007 and the end of the second quarter of 2008.
The report concluded that while Lehman’s directors should have exercised greater caution, they did not cross the line into “gross negligence” and Lehman’s demise was more “the consequence than the cause of a deteriorating economic climate.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree in government at Lawrence, Valukas earned his law degree from Northwestern University School of Law in 1968.
Launched last fall as a complement to the Lawrence Scholars in Business initiative, the Lawrence Scholars in Law program brings alumni experts who have been highly successful in their careers to campus to share their experience and advice with current students.