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this Repo 105 "loss of control" guidance aplies only to US GAAP, not to international accounting regulations
However, according to DealBook's The Origins of Lehman's `Repo 105' there was a different 'gimmick' used called Repo 108 which was "European-only"
First, a quick primer on how Repo 105 (and the similar, European-only Repo 108) worked, based on the report by Anton R. Valukas. Like all repos, short for "repurchase agreements," it involved what amounts to a short-term loan, exchanging collateral for cash up front, and then unwinding the trade as soon as overnight.
Nobody's talking much about how Repos 108 worked.

Anyway, FT Alphaville has a post on The genesis of Repo 105 showing that Lehman Brothers deliberately set out to bend accounting regulations to its advantage, as I am sure any firm does even without ill intentions when a new regulation comes out

In 2001 Lehman Brothers held a meeting with its lawyers and auditors.

A new US accounting standard -- SFAS 140 -- had just come into effect, and the banking heads were keen to find a way to use it to their advantage. They settled upon something called Repo 105 and 108, which would allow it to essentially book repurchase agreements as sales rather than temporary transactions -- thus massaging its balance sheet and net leverage figures.

That year, the firm sent around an internal accounting memo for what became known as Repo 105, which you can view here.

Lehman was interested in shrinking its balance sheet even then because there was internal debate over leverage levels, according to Ex-Lehman C.F.O. Criticizes Repo 105 (NYT's DealBook, again)
"No, it wasn't done at the other firms, so it was clearly an accounting technical approach in order to bring a balance sheet down," he said. "But you're not bringing the balance sheet down. ... If all you're doing is hiding behind a curtain, it's not there."

Mr. Hintz also talked a bit about his time at Lehman, which he said was spent fighting over the firm's debt levels even then. Hurting things was what he called a "primitive" accounting system.

"Although they didn't find any accounting shenanigans, what was very clear to a reader of this was that there was an awful lot of stuff being done by hand," he said. "The battles that I fought inside the company about leverage in the 1990's, they were still fighting 10 years later."

He also seems to deny the implication in one of Tyler Durden's tirades that other investment banks must have been doing the same or are doing it now. It is possible that this was something only Lehman did.

The brainless should not be in banking -- Willem Buiter
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 17th, 2010 at 03:32:20 AM EST
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