After the market lost confidence in Bear Stearns, rumor was that Lehman Brothers would be the next to fall. But its leader, Dick Fuld, brought the company back from the brink with effective counterattacks. It immediately called key clients and partners with proof of its liquidity. It wooed ratings agencies and the media. It played, one observer said, like the scene from "It's a Wonderful Life" in which Jimmy Stewart calms panicked depositors by confidently offering to return funds to anyone who wanted out.

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