Many may have missed Diversity, Inc. magazine's "Why a Lack of Diversity Killed Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns" in its Dec-08 issue. Daryl Hannah's article is now available in its entirety online at www.diversityinc.com.
Hannah's case is not a cause-effect argument. It does not say explicitly a scarcity of under-represented minorities in leadership roles caused their demise. But the article shows how the lack of diverse leadership at both was a symptom of an insulated, closed-door culture.
Such lack of open-mindedness led them to financial pitfalls or spurred them to make imprudent business decisions or take outrageous risks.
The diversity records at both firms were not entirely woeful. They both probably realized too late they had some catching up to do. Both firms had diversity-recruiting programs for entry positions. In its last year, chief financial and chief risk officers at Lehman were women.
Otherwise, people of color or women were not prominent in the board rooms of both. In his recent book about Bear's implosion (House of Cards), William Cohan presents a picture of a firm not too hospitable to or concerned about under-represented minorities. Yet the firm often boasted about attracting unsung talent that hadn't taken the traditional elite routes to get to Wall Street.
To its credit, Bear had been an occasional Consortium supporter, while Lehman was known to have recruited many Consortium graduates in the last decade.