Ex-Lehman CEO keeps low profile as bankruptcy anniversary looms

Richard Fuld knows all too well that he's the poster boy for the meltdown that hit Wall Street a year ago. As chairman and chief executive at Lehman Bros., he faced bitter criticism and rancor last fall for his seeming arrogance and negligence regarding the storied investment bank's exposure to bad mortgage debt, eventually leading to the firm's bankruptcy a year ago.

Despite the villainy ascribed to him, Fuld, 63, isn't flinching in the face of the anniversary of Lehman's collapse on September 15, according to a Reuters report. Tracked down last week in Ketchum, Idaho, Fuld said, "I've been pummeled, I've been dumped on, and it's all going to happen again. I can handle it. You know what, let them line up."

Fuld became the face of the financial meltdown in part after his testimony before Congress in December when he attempted to explain Lehman's collapse. He was called a villain by one lawmaker and jeered by protesters who greeted him at the Capitol and called for his imprisonment.

Even former Lehman employees have expressed contempt for his cataclysmic reign at Lehman, suggesting that Fuld was aloof and rarely interacted with those outside the executive suite. One critic, Lawrence McDonald, a former Lehman vice president who wrote a book about the Lehman collapse -- A Colossal Failure of Common Sense -- called Fuld arrogant and irresponsible. "The truth is, qualified people warned him several times and he wouldn't listen," McDonald told Reuters in an interview.

Friends and acquaintances say Fuld remains active on Wall Street, having started his own investment firm, Matrix Advisors LLC, according to the Reuters report. He is also doing some work for restructuring firm Alvarez & Marsal, helping to unwind Lehman free of charge, Reuters said, citing unnamed sources.

Fuld is also spending part of his time defending his actions and his name. He has been named in some 40 different legal actions since Lehman went bankrupt, according to Reuters, most of which were filed by cities and pension funds that claim he and other Lehman executives led them into making bad investments.

There are also suits filed by Lehman employees alleging mismanagement of employees' retirement funds. Further, Fuld, along with a dozen other Lehman executives, is the subject of several grand jury investigations probing Lehman's collapse.

The current state of Fuld's life is a far cry from just a few years ago, when he was viewed as a visionary for leading Lehman out of obscurity by rebuilding it into one of the nation's top four investment houses.

But since the firm's collapse last fall, Fuld has been laying low, selling his Manhattan penthouse and other items in an effort to scale back after his personal fortune lost more than $1 billion amid Lehman's share price decline and eventual bankruptcy.

Today, with the anniversary of Lehman's collapse looming, Fuld is girding for renewed scrutiny and criticism of his actions.

"They're looking for someone to dump on right now, and that's me," Fuld told Reuters, adding later: "You know what they say? 'This too shall pass.'"

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