The US Treasury Secretary's hectic schedule after Lehman Brothers' collapse highlights the chaos of the financial crisis

Getty ImagesFormer Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson.
  • Saturday marks exactly 10 years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the biggest bankruptcy in the history of the United States, and the defining event of the financial crisis.
  • The days after Lehman’s collapse were a frantic scramble to prevent the collapse of the whole financial system.
  • At the heart of that scramble was Henry “Hank” Paulson, the then-US Treasury Secretary.
  • An extract from Paulson’s calendar two days after Lehman’s collapse so just how hectic things were.
  • Paulson had 42 calls or meetings between 7.00 a.m. and 1.20 p.m. on September 17, 2008.

Exactly 10 years ago, Lehman Brothers collapsed into administration. It was the biggest bankruptcy in the history of the United States and the defining event of the financial crisis, which ravaged the global economy between 2007 and 2009.

Lehman’s bankruptcy sparked genuine fears in the US that the country’s entire financial system could collapse. It led to a crazy scramble by senior bankers and politicians to insulate the industry, and the wider economy, from the threat of contagion.

One of the most crucial figures during this period was Henry “Hank” Paulson, the United States Treasury Secretary. He was the most senior politician with responsibility for the financial industry and the conduit between the US government and big banks.

Lehman collapsed on September 15, and Paulson’s schedule in the days following provides a glimpse into the chaos

The schedule, printed in Andrew Ross Sorkin’s epic account of the crisis, Too Big To Fail, reveals just how crazily busy and hectic the days around Lehman’s collapse were. Paulson, who was Treasury Secretary between 2006 and 2009, took a staggering 42 calls and meetings between 7.10 a.m. and 1.20 p.m, and a total of 69 over the course of the entire day.

Those calls included one to then-President George Bush, several to Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke, and New York Fed head Tim Geithner, as well as conversations with Lehman CEO Dick Fuld, Goldman Sachs boss Lloyd Blankfein, and JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon.

“Paulson’s calendar and call log illustrates the frantic scramble,” Sorkin wrote underneath the schedule, noting as well that the log “does not reflect calls on his cell phone or home phone.”

Check it out below, with the first half of the day reproduced in full:

  • 7.10 a.m. to 7.20 a.m. – Call from President George W. Bush
  • 7.20 to 7.40 – Call from Tim Geithner, New York Federal Reserve Chairman
  • 7.40 to 7.45 – Call to Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan CEO
  • 7.45 to 7.50 – Call from Sheila Bair, Chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
  • 7.50 to 8.00 – Call to Tim Geithner
  • 8.15 to 8.20 – Call to Dick Fuld, Lehman Brothers CEO
  • 8.20 to 8.30 – Call to Jamie Dimon
  • 8.30 to 8.35 – Call to Chris Cox, Securities and Exchanges Commission Chairman
  • 8.35 to 8.50 – Staff Meeting, Secretary’s Large Conference Room
  • 8.50 to 9.05 – Call to Congressman Steny Hoyer
  • 9.05 to 9.10 – Call to Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke
  • 9.10 to 9.15 – Call to Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs CEO
  • 9.15 to 9.20 – Call to Chris Cox
  • 9.20 to 9.30 – Call with Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin
  • 9.30 to 9.50 – Drop by Ken’s [adviser Ken Wilson] meeting with Richard Davis, President and CEO of US Bancorp, and Andy Cecere, CFO and Vice Chairman
  • 9.50 to 10.05 – Call to Ben Bernanke
  • 10.05 to 10.10 – Call to Tim Geithner
  • 10.10 to 10.20 – Call to Chris Cox
  • 10.20 to 10.25 – Call to Tim Geithner
  • 10.25 to 10.30 – Call to Senator Richard Shelby
  • 10.30 to 10.35 – Call to Senator Chris Dodd
  • 10.35 to 10.40 – Call to Congressman Barney Frank
  • 10.40 to 10.45 – Call to Congressman Spencer Bachus
  • 10.45 to 10.50 – Call to Congressman John Boehner
  • 10.50 to 10.55 – Call to Josh Bolten, President Bush’s chief of staff
  • 10.55 to 11.00 – Call to Congressman Barney Frank
  • 11.00 to 11.05 – Call to Ed Herlihy, a lawyer at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
  • 11.05 to 11.15 – Call to Congressman John Boehner
  • 11.30 to 12.00 – Phone interview with Greg Ip of The Economist
  • 12.05 p.m. to 12.10 p.m. – Call to Josh Bolten
  • 12.10 to 12.15 – Call to Chris Cox
  • 12.15 to 12.20 – Calls to Lloyd Blankfein and Tim Geithner
  • 12.20 to 12.25 – Call to Ben Bernanke
  • 12.25 to 12.30 – Call from John Thain, Merrill Lynch CEO
  • 12.30 to 12.40 – Call to Ben Bernanke
  • 12.40 to 12.50 – Call to Chris Dodd
  • 12.50 to 12.55 – Call to Ben Bernanke
  • 12.55 to 1.00 – Economic Principals Lunch, Ward Room, White House
  • 1.00 to 1.05 – Call to Chris Cox
  • 1.05 to 1.10 – Call to John Mack, Morgan Stanley CEO
  • 1.10 to 1.15 – Call to Tim Geithner
  • 1.15 to 1.20 – Call to Senator Richard Shelby

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