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Former Lehman chief blames crisis on 'perfect storm'

Richard Fuld, former chief executive officer of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., center, arrives at the Grand Hyatt Hotel to speak at the Marcum MicroCap Conference, in New York, U.S. on May 28, 2015.

[NEW YORK] In his first public appearance since 2008, former Lehman Brothers chief Richard Fuld on Thursday blamed the financial crisis on a "perfect storm" of factors.

Mr Fuld, who has kept a low profile since his firm's failure in September 2008 helped set off the biggest financial firestorm since 1929, said at an investment conference that the crisis was the result "not just of one single thing." "It's all these things taken together," he said, adding that government policies designed to boost home ownership had unintended consequences, such as swelling home prices that led many families to take on too much debt.

Mr Fuld said Lehman's demise was a "mandated bankruptcy" and that Lehman "was not a bankrupt company." At the same time, Mr Fuld suggested he also bore some responsibility for his firm's fate.

"Did we fall prey to some other agendas?" he asked. "I'll leave it at that." Mr Fuld at times waxed nostalgic, as when he recounted Lehman growth into a powerhouse on Wall Street under the credo that "everything was about the client."

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He expressed concern that growing income inequality was harming the "belly of America" and said he worries about everything from slowing Chinese growth to the emergence of the Islamic State group and the aggressiveness of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"None of these things are any individual surprise, but taken together, they're fraying the fabric of our system," he said.