Lehman Brothers (LEH) has destroyed its credibility in the past few months, in part because it has mishandled communications surrounding the ongoing debt crisis. Despite the firm having raised an additional $6 billion of emergency capital yesterday, moreover, Lehman’s stock is still taking it on the chin.
So where on earth is Lehman’s CEO Dick Fuld?
Ever since Bear Stearns blew up and Fuld jetted back from India to make sure the same fate didn’t immediately befall Lehman, Fuld has been publicly MIA. Instead of reassuring investors himself, he’s had CFO Erin Callan and Lehman spokespeople (try to) do it. Now, with the stock down more than 60% this year alone–and even die-hard Lehman fans throwing in the towel–Fuld is still nowhere to be seen.
Lehman’s approach to the crisis has in part been to pretend that it has no idea what the fuss is about. On Lehman’s conference call yesterday, for example, Erin Callan (no Fuld in evidence) barely acknowledged that, just three months ago, she said Lehman had all the capital it needed. Nor did she offer an explanation for why her team had so badly misjudged the value of some of Lehman’s assets. Instead, she went on the offensive, saying Lehman would use its new capital to lever up again.
Dick Fuld’s disappearing act, of course, will make it easier for him to blame the firm’s troubles on Callan–and send her packing. Ultimately, however, there’s only one person with whom the buck stops, and Lehman’s shareholders deserve to hear from him.