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Monday 15 September 2008 was not a good day. The previous week, Lehman Brothers had reported a $3.9bn (£2.2bn) quarterly loss. Not, perhaps, a huge surprise, given the turmoil in subprime mortgage-related markets, but a big loss nonetheless. Over the past few months Lehman’s share price had fallen from almost $50 to under $5 as it faced up to a crisis of confidence and liquidity. But Bear Stearns had been rescued by JP Morgan Chase in March – with around $25bn (£14bn) of help from the New York Federal Reserve – so there was hope.

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