Tag Archives: Bear Stearns

How a movie reinforced my doubts about Bruce Lisman

I saw “The Big Short” last night. Great movie. Manages to be funny and dramatic while also explaining some very tricky financial concepts.

And there was one scene near the end that reminded me very much of The Man Who Would Be Governor, Bruce Lisman. He’s the native Vermonter who spent most of his adult life in the shadowy canyons of Wall Street, working his way up the ladder to the very top ranks of Bear Stearns.

Yes, the financial firm that went kerblooey in the great crash of 2008.

The story of “The Big Short” is that a few marginal investor-class weirdos were the only ones who saw how the mainstream investment community was vastly overextended in the housing market — to such an extent that a crash was inevitable. It also features various Wall Street “geniuses” who were clueless about the coming debacle.

Continue reading

A small fortune, on a relative scale

Retired Wall Street kingpin Bruce Lisman, the Millionaire Who Would Be Governor, released his financials on Monday. Interesting, because (a) candidates usually release financials after Tax Day, so their most recent tax returns are included, and (b) it’s Christmas Week, when relatively few are paying attention. Kind of a newsdump, in other words.

The topline? Lisman’s net worth is $50.9 million.

Sounds like a lot. But my first thought was: I expected more.

After all, this is a guy who was in the top ranks of Bear Stearns, a very lucrative Wall Street firm. Well, it was “very lucrative” until it melted down into a small puddle of goo in the 2008 financial crisis.

And after all, this is a guy who in 2009 sold his Manhattan residence — a four-bedroom pad overlooking Central Park, not far from the Metropolitan Museum of Art — for almost $13 million. And his current manse in Shelburne is worth just under $6 million. With real estate exposure like that, I’d have expected a higher net worth.

There are possible explanations.

Continue reading

Evidence of Bruce Lisman’s appeal (hint: microscopic)

This week’s “Fair Game” column by Paul Heintz had some notable tidings near the end: Campaign for Vermont, the public policy nonprofit founded — and almost exclusively funded — by Bruce Lisman, appears to be on its last legs.

Now that Lisman is fully ensconced in his campaign — and has turned off the $1.35 million spigot that funded CFV — the organization appears to have fallen on tough times. Earlier this month, policy and operations manager Ben Kinsley decamped to the Lisman campaign. And now executive director Cyrus Patten says he’s on his way out the door.

According to Patten, who apparently isn’t averse to spilling bad news now that he’s out the door, CFV has a mere $40,000 left in the bank.

Lisman and Patten were constantly bragging about CFV’s alleged influence in the Statehouse and its progress in building an independent political movement, but there was precious little objective evidence to support their claims. After Lisman stopped writing the big checks, Patten claimed that an aggressive fundraising/membership campaign was starting to pay dividends.

Guess that was just a steamin’ pile of bullshit.

Continue reading

Bruce Lisman needs to work on his poker face

After his disastrous attempt to answer a simple question, our favorite Wall Street panjandrum made a strategic retreat and worked out a new story. With rather hilarious results.

For those just joining us, VPR’s Peter Hirschfeld discovered that someone was doing opposition research on Lt. Gov. Phil Scott. Hirschfeld asked the obvious suspect, Bruce Lisman, the only declared Republican in the race.

And Lisman basically soiled his britches. He said “it’s possible,” then denied contracting with anyone, then admitted “it could be,” and closed with “A note to self: I’m going to go find out.”

Apparently, even Lisman realized how much of a disaster that was. Because shortly after Hirschfeld’s story went up online, Lisman called him back with Version 2.0.

Which was a little more coherent, but barely credible.

Continue reading

The Sergeant Schultz of Wall Street

“Waiter, waiter! My table is on fire! Can we have some water?”

“Sorry, sir, that’s not my station.”

I ended my last post about Bruce Lisman with a reminder of his 2010 comments to the effect that the 2008 financial collapse was some sort of unforeseeable natural event, a “Darwinian asteroid,” “this thing that happened.”

Well, he did offer some further comments on his Wall Street tenure during his interview with Mark Johnson, but they didn’t do anything to soften my criticism. He expressed pride in his own record as a Bear Stearns executive, and professed ignorance of the gross malfeasance that was going on at the doomed company.

In a sense, he had a point. He was busy running his own division, and it wasn’t his responsibility to make himself aware of what other executives were doing. Although, it must be said, the misdeeds of his fellow Bear Stearns execs turned out to be a disaster for his division’s clients as well as everyone else in the goddamn world.

And what does it say about his insight, his judgment, that he could be stationed on the deck of the Titanic and not see the iceberg coming? Or not raise serious questions about the decision to steer the ship through the North Atlantic ice fields? Especially when he’s so sharply critical of the Shumlin administration’s failure to plan ahead, take the long view, make government predictable and accountable, and gather the data necessary to make intelligent long-range decisions?

He is expecting far more of state government than he expected of himself and his fellow executives. And he is demanding a level of accountability for state officials that he is still not willing to assume for the catastrophic dealings of Bear Stearns, the firm where he spent his entire career.

Think I’m being harsh? Let’s look at the transcript.

Continue reading