Five years since Lehman Brothers and my holiday in France

It's five years since Lehman Brothers went badly, badly wrong. I was on holiday at the time in Brittany trying to translate the news reports on French TV. At one point I transcribed : "It's the end of the world as we know it," from the TV newsreader and only after a mild panic realised I was projecting my REM playlist into the news. My projection though was prophetic.
The next day I managed to find a copy of The Times to read on the seafront at Benodet. It was my birthday (as is tomorrow) and the headlines were saying smoothing like: "It could be the end of the world as we know it." I let out a gasp and exclaimed to my wife: "The world economy is coming apart!" And a lady passing by looked sternly at me and said, in an accent that reminded me of John Noakes: "That's why you shouldn't read the f***ing papers when you're on 'holiday!" and walked off without another word. Not as polite as John Noakes but an indication that ignorance, for some, surely is bliss.

Anyway, this is a long way of saying Economia asked me to look at financial reporting around the world - Australia, Canada, China, Brazil, Japan and the USA - since that fateful moment when it looked like everything was coming unstuck.
It's been interesting getting up at 5am to make sleepy-headed calls in my pyjamas (I work from home, it's allowed) to Tokyo, Peking, Sao Paulo and others to talk financial reporting standards (I find accounting standards an excellent morning stimulant).
However, more interesting than waking at stupid o'clock is that as much as we view this "thing" as a global crisis, others, in fact most of the countries I spoke to, regard it as much more of a US, UK, European phenomenon that had implications for them. There was quite some distance between the problem and where the crisis ripples only just reach.
Their economies stuttered but were back on track quickly (with the exception of the US). There were repercussions, sure, but they were not of lasting significance. In some cases, they had painful issues of their own making to worry about. Their focus, in reporting terms, was international accounting standards, not the failures of the crisis even though it may have resulted in a little bit of soul searching (audit market, audit quality).
Indeed, if you put aside the US, these countries were not embarrassingly exposed to sub prime or Greek government bonds. And yet, almost without exception, they referred to the UK and US as "sophisticated" financial markets. Which made me wonder, what on earth does sophistication mean?
It also means every year on my birthday I am reminded of the near catastrophic collapse of the world's financial system. Reassuring.
Anyway, here's a link to the Economia piece - enjoy!
Five years on - international financial reporting


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