One Wall Streeter: Why I Won't Trade on Bin Laden

My wife was the first to see the news.

She was very happy, much more so than I was, perhaps because she was in the dark on 9/11 as to my whereabouts, while I knew exactly where I was—at Lehman Brothers headquarters across the street from the World Trade Center.


It took a couple of hours before I could get through to her, but the uncertainty was such a small price to pay versus the sacrifice of others.

Four months later, the FBI was in my driveway as my wife came home from picking the kids up at school. They wanted to know why I didn’t show up for Flight 93, my relatively last-minute decision not to make a business trip to San Francisco. It beat any investment decision I ever made.

I often still wonder why I had never realized I was to be on that flight that day until the FBI told my family. Every night from then on, as I put my daughters to bed, they would ask me to promise them that I wouldn’t be flying the next day.

I was back at work early on 9/12 in our administrative offices across the Hudson River in Jersey City, N.J. I was there with 20 others trying to figure out how we were going to stay in business while watching our building burn across the river.

The air was still acrid and ashes floated above us the following day as I returned to the Ground Zero neighborhood with a colleague to look at vacant office space offered to us by another company. But the firm quickly decided that we couldn’t bring our people back to that area.

Of course, Lehman stayed in business through hard work and teamwork, only to ultimately be brought down by a much stealthier attacker: the twin forces of leverage and greed.

While Bin Laden’s death is a cause for celebration, it is perhaps more a day for reflection and gratitude for those who have given their lives, both innocently and in service of our country.

But Bin Laden’s death is not an investible event unless the satisfaction of his demise leads to a more optimistic outlook from a personal standpoint. But I would caution against this approach, since the first lesson of investing is that there is no place for emotion in analysis.

In order to justify trading off this event, one must assume that Bin Laden had some influence upon the markets that has now been eradicated—and that’s not the case.

* In 2001, Stephen Weiss was a Managing Director at Lehman Brothers

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