More than two years after the collapse of Lehman Bros., Burbank is still pining for the $10 million it lost in the deal.
Following Lehman’s declaration of bankruptcy in September 2008, Burbank filed a lawsuit alleging top executives of the company knowingly committed fraud by misrepresenting the value of the firm’s assets.
The city’s case was lumped into a larger class-action lawsuit in 2009 and has been making its way through the court system.
“It is fairly consistent with the federal rules of civil procedure that the case was transferred and not unexpected,” said city spokesman Keith Sterling.
Fortunately, the debt owed by the defunct investment firm to Burbank is considered a senior debt out of the dozens of associated lawsuits stacked up at the U.S. District Court in New York, increasing the chances of a higher percentage to be recouped, said City Treasurer Donna Anderson said.
The city’s entire portfolio is worth about $400 million and has been performing well despite the scar left by Lehman Bros., she added.
“Burbank’s portfolio is very healthy, even with Lehman Bros. still in it,” she said. “It’s worth a lot of money — more than what we put into it.”
The bonds Burbank bought with Lehman Bros. had a top investment rating at the time.
“It was just a sign of the times in 2008 when everything took a dive,” Anderson said. “Everyone got hurt.”
Burbank’s $10-million claim against Lehman Bros. is small change compared with the $200 million in bonds held by the state of California.
While other Southern California cities like Long Beach and Cerritos have joined Burbank’s waiting game, others have counted their blessings that they passed up the high interest rates promised by the investment firm.
When given the opportunity to invest in Lehman Bros., Glendale City Treasurer Ron Borucki said it “just didn’t fit our portfolio at the time.”
The experience has changed Burbank’s investment strategy. Anderson hasn’t bought any more corporate bonds since the Lehman Bros. fiasco, citing low interest-rate returns and reliability.
“Federal bonds are almost equal in returns,” she said. “Unless a corporate bond is giving a better interest rate and I know the name, I won’t buy it.”
Burbank still earns higher yields of 6.6% from Goldman Sachs, 5.5% from JPMorgan Chase & Co. and 4.7% from the Walt Disney Co.
“We’ve hit rock bottom, and things will only go up from here,” Anderson said.