PwC, the administrator charged with mopping up the European operations of the failed investment bank Lehman Brothers, has said that it might order the destruction of trading data and records once all of the bank’s affairs have been settled.
The possibility that PwC might destroy the data and documents locked down on the systems of Lehman Brothers International Europe, at the moment the plug was pulled on the bank in September 2008, feeds into the fears of historians that records of the financial crisis will be lost.
Archivists typically select around 5 per cent of organisational records, such as board minutes, public statements and strategy papers, for long-term preservation, according to Vicki Lemieux, an associate professor in archival studies at the University of British Columbia. But, given the repercussions and public importance of the crisis, she says: “The decision on what records are retained shouldn’t be a technocratic function undertaken by archivists alone, without some wider social consultation.”
It is not just academics who want to preserve the records. The European Association for Banking and Financial History, a network of financial institutions, hopes to persuade bank boards to preserve historically significant records. “The first step is to ensure the important parts of the archive are kept. But, in due time [after closure periods of perhaps 30-50 years] we hope the banks will make them accessible to researchers,” says Ines van Dijk, a document specialist at the Dutch central bank, who sits on an EABH committee looking at legislation affecting finance archives.
Via Peter Kurilecz