Florida Got Lehman Help Before Run on School’s Funds

Dec. 18 (Bloomberg) — It was the first day of November and Coleman Stipanovich’s world was coming undone. Florida school districts and towns had begun pulling their cash out of the $26 billion money market fund he supervised, after they learned it held subprime-tainted debt. Stipanovich, who earned $180,214 in 2006 as executive director of the State Board of Administration, was in New York in confidential meetings with Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., the largest U.S. underwriter of mortgage-backed bonds. Lehman was proposing ways to help the state manage the risk of its debt investments, according to a letter the bank sent to Stipanovich after the meeting. What Stipanovich, 58, hadn’t told his boss, Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, was that Lehman Brothers was the same firm that had sold the state fund $842 million of mortgage- backed debt in July and August. Those securities defaulted within four months, and totaled more failing debt than any other bank sold the state, Florida records show. “At the time, I never knew it was Lehman Brothers that actually sold us these investments,” Sink says.

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