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Greece Strikingly Similar to Lehman, Says Its CEO

Thursday, 16 Jun 2011 | 1:25 PM ET
Greek riot policemen clash with protestors in the center of Athens on May 5, 2010.
Dimitar Dilkoff | AFP |Getty Images
Greek riot policemen clash with protestors in the center of Athens on May 5, 2010.

The executive in charge of restructuring Lehman Brothers sees some "striking" similarities between his company and Greece, he told CNBC Thursday.

"If I was advising Greece right now, if I was advising the various countries in the European Union, I would be telling them to do their contingency planning, prepare a liquidity plan to withstand the storm," said Brian Marsal, Lehman's CEO and co-chief executive of turnaround firm Alvarez & Marsal North America.

Lehman's was the largest U.S. bankruptcy in 2008, at the time the biggest investment bank to collapse since Drexel Burnham Lambert in 1990.

"I would expect the Germans mean what they’re saying" when they take a hard line on the Greek debt situation, just as then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson "really meant it in the case of Lehman," Marsal said.

Future of Lehman Bros.
Investors continue to worry about the risk of a Greek debt default and some are making comparisons between the Greece and Lehman Brothers collapse. Insight with Bryan Marsal, Lehman Bros. CEO.

However, he added, just as Paulson decided after Lehman failed that "he couldn’t take the systemic risk problem," so the Germans "after Greece goes down will change their mind and will provide assurances for the other countries in southern Europe."

In the end, he said, "the financial consequences or the economic consequences are going to bring people back to reality."

Marsal said the Lehman restructuring is going well. The company has sold $20 billion to $25 billion in assets and expects to have "something positive to report" in December on its revised bankruptcy plan. If approved by creditors, he said distributions will start in the first quarter of 2012.

He said if there had been a Dodd-Frank law at the time of Lehman's bankruptcy it "would’ve helped the recovery of Lehman dramatically. Had it been in place I think we would’ve seen significantly better recoveries. On that score the [U.S.] government learned a lot."