Potential Lehman (LEH) Buyers Hanging Fed On Its Own Petard

Potential Lehman buyers aren’t stupid: They know the Fed and Treasury wouldn’t let Bear Stearns fail, so they won’t likely let Lehman fail. So all they have to do now is say, “If you don’t protect us, we’ll walk.” And that’s just what they’re doing:

NYT: Among the potential suitors are Barclays of Britain and the Bank of America… as well as several private equity firms. In each case, the suitors are seeking help and assurances from the Federal Reserve to help make an acquisition palatable.

Barclays and Bank of America are seeking assurances that the Fed would guarantee a part of Lehman’s troubled assets, these people said, similar to the way it backstopped Bear Stearns‘s portfolio during the sale to JPMorgan Chase.

While Mr. Fuld, who is also a director of the Federal Reserve of New York, has been in constant contact with regulators, it remained unclear whether the Fed will help, these people said.

The notion of a providing a guarantee as part of sale to a foreign buyer would be a tricky issue for the Fed. Without such assistance, potential suitors have suggested they would “walk,”s according to person briefed on the discussion. Fed officials have hinted that they would be more receptive to a bank buying Lehman, rather than a private equity firm.

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