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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/17092/the-lehman-brothers-plan/

The Lehman Brothers Plan

May 25, 2011 by

The meltdown of Lehman Brothers in September 2008 didn’t begin the crisis; it was a model of how all troubled firms should have been handled. Had this policy been followed from the beginning, I have little doubt that the downturn would already be over, and we would not have added to the debt problem.

FULL ARTICLE by Mark Thornton


Friedrich May 25, 2011 at 8:16 am

Well of course this complete Failout nonsense should not have taken place. It’s just another word for arbitrariness and “let’s pile up another level of debt upon our way too large debt stock”. But hey they are politicians and everything is welcome to influence more and more things. We maybe would be through with this debt avalanches. Now we just can see how much worse it will get.

Everyone but the Delebets and probably the bank managers have been against this fraud. But obviously we are not choosen defrauders. We have to work to get our wages paid. Politicians make it much easier for themselves the plunder. Bastiat has described it some 140 or so years ago. And really nothing has changed since. The worst get elected and the barrier of stupidity can not be low enought that not legions of Politicians can walk beneath it.

Fouad Sayegh May 25, 2011 at 9:01 am

No mention is made in the article of the level of consumer debt or of the misery that millions of people will be subjected to. No mention either of the loss of savings due to the collapse of the banks and the stock market. This nonsense presumes that people will , somehow, find money to purchase the necessities to sustain existence; in fact, what we are looking at here is political and social chaos.

jmorris84 May 25, 2011 at 9:33 am

Fouad, I believe instead of “political and social chaos”, you meant to say, “restructuring.” Sounds to me that you favor the option we chose, which is adding more to the debt pile, an increase in the malinvestments and moral hazord, and so on. If I’m wrong, please explain your alternative approach to the madness.

TwoZero May 25, 2011 at 11:43 am

Nobody said things would be pleasant at first…

The fact is that we will have to swallow this bitter pill sooner or later, all the fed has done is put off the inevitable.

Personally, I think we should do it now – and move forward to recovery.

The way the Fed is printing money – its just gonna make things worse if we put it off.

Friedrich May 26, 2011 at 12:53 am

“The fact is that we will have to swallow this bitter pill sooner or later, all the fed has done is put off the inevitable.”

That’s for sure and if it would have been nasty in the early 90ies, really bad some 2-3 years ago. It will be nothing if they pile up other “levels” of debt as long as possible. The longer we try to avoid the deserved fate the harder and the uglier it will get. I guess we could have been get away with it without violence some decades ago. I’m not sure if violence will be avoidable these days….

Keith May 26, 2011 at 6:30 am

The “crash” is not what destroys wealth.

The wealth was destroyed during the boom, by [mal]investment in things like new business parks, which will never host businesses, block and pre-cast plants in quarries to make the building materials for those business parks, new sub divisions to be bought by people who couldn’t afford them, investment apartments in County Leitrim and Bulgaria, financial products based on those mortgages which couldn’t be expected to be paid…

That wealth has gone, now we need to liquidate those mal investments as best we can, people who built the business parks, worked the quarries, manned the pre-cast and block plants, advised people to buy the dodgy investments and sold mortgages to those who had no realistic prospect of paying them, need to find jobs which serve people’s needs (doing things people are willing and able to pay for).

It is not easy, I was working on construction projects, I did my part in building Ireland’s mal investments, I’m having to find a new line of work, salvage what I can from 20 years in a field that no longer exists.

The bust is the painful time, but prolonging it does not make it easier. The ghost estates of half built houses, the empty business parks, the €100,000/acre floodplain land, the block and pre-cast plants now housing nesting pigeons, the brand new bank branch buildings… that’s where the wealth went

Walt D. May 25, 2011 at 9:35 am

“Had this policy been followed from the beginning, I have little doubt that the downturn would already be over, and we would not have added to the debt problem.”
This ignores the problems with mega-turd GSE’s. Fannie and Freddie should never have existed in the first place. The real problem is that the Federal Government has become “too big to fail”.

Friedrich May 26, 2011 at 12:55 am

“The real problem is that the Federal Government has become “too big to fail”.”

That’s wrong. Government has become too big to survive. But they will try to eat everything on their way to extinction….. And you know that even after the breadkdown, they will return like zombies….

BradO May 25, 2011 at 11:20 am

This whole stupid circumstance is due to our practice of creating money out of thin air by borrowing it into existance. Most of our money is loans from banks. When credit dies, so does the money supply. When the money supply declines, the economy declines. I understand the intent of the article, but this whole monetary system is a disaster and should be scrapped.

This kind of stuff did not happen with a gold standard or even a government issued fiat currency. All the government spending and TARP and every other stupid program is because the Fed and the Fed banks have captured our money system and therefore us by the [manhood]. Only by taking back control of our money will this stop. Otherwise a credit collapse will redistribute a lot of property into the hands of the bankers.

Ohhh Henry May 25, 2011 at 11:40 am

Most importantly, government should not meddle in markets

This is correct, strictly speaking, but it ignores the fundamental role of government – which is to interfere in the markets. It’s like saying, “Meddlers should not meddle”. To concede that government should exist is to agree that it should meddle in the markets to advantage of those who control the government.

If government was to refrain from meddling in the market in the way described in this article, it could only be in order to allow the government to make an even bigger killing (figuratively and literally) later on. Fattening the cow, so to speak.

Writing prescriptions like this for the government, asking it to work against its own interests, or else to give up a short-term advantage in order to be able to score an even bigger sting against the public later on, is (depending on the outcome) either unproductive or downright harmful.

Working against human nature in this way is probably not the way to go. It may be a better strategy to work with human nature, that is to stimulate people’s self-interest in a way that leads to greater peace and productivity. An example of such a tactic would be to focus on convincing the public that the government are (by design) a bunch of meddlers who are always and only working in their own self-interest, and that the only tactics available to the government are lies and violence. Once the public are convinced of where their own self-interest lies, they can be encouraged to further their interests in the best possible way, using peaceful co-operation with each other and using evasion, non-obedience, secession and nullification against the lies and violence of their would-be masters.

Dick Fox May 25, 2011 at 1:29 pm

This was an extremely disappointing article. The best thing about it was its title. Sadly, nothing was offered but opinion, but all of the unfounded myths and lies about the Lehman bankruptcy were allowed to stand. Consider the following that I posted on another web site February 1, 2010.

Let’s look at the major events for the period.Friday, September 5, 2008
Rumors are swirling the last business day before Fannie and Freddie go into conservatorship. Sunday, September 7, 2008 Fannie and Freddie are taken over by the federal government.
DJIA Open 11,185.63
DJIA Close 11,220.96
Daily Change +35.33Monday, September 8, 2008
The market reacts to the demise of Fannie and Freddie. DJIA opens up and climbs throughout the day.
DJIA Open 11,224.87
DJIA Close 11,510.74
Daily Change +285.87Monday, September 15, 2008
Lehman Brothers announces bankruptcy
DJIA Open 11,416.37
DJIA Close 10,917.51
Daily Change -498.86Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Barclay’s Bank announces it will buy Lehman. DJIA begins recovery.
DJIA Open 10,905.62
DJIA Close 11,059.02
Daily Change +153.40Friday, September 19, 2008
By Friday immediately before the Lehman purchase is approved on Saturday the DJIA regains strength to slightly below the level before Lehman’s announcement. The shock of the Lehman bankruptcy is virtually over as the free market cleans up the bankruptcy.
DJIA Open 11,027.51
DJIA Close 11,388.44
Daily Change +360.93

The myth of Lehman causing the 2008 market meltdown is basically a lie. The economic impact of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy was totally over before the stock market crash. But the crash does track with TARP being forced down our throats.

Jordan Viray May 25, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Did you even read the article? He is not suggesting that Lehman caused the meltdown but rather that all the troubled firms should have been allowed to fail as Lehman was. As you point out, there is a period of hurt followed by a quick recovery.

Maybe you thought the title was the best part because that’s all your read.

El Tonno May 25, 2011 at 7:26 pm

This was an extremely disappointing post.

Gurrie Rhoads May 25, 2011 at 5:05 pm

I count myself as a Libertarian, delighting in both the simple straightforward analyses of Bastiat and the complicated ones of Mises. Nevertheless, I am still somewhat dismayed that a lot of Libertarians, including, unfortunately, the author, don’t always get it. They use words like “bubbles” and “corrections” as though these were some sort of naturally occurring cyclical economic phenomena. They are ready enough to blame the Fed and the government for the expansion side of the cycle, but don’t really “get” the fact that it is the recession side of the cycle where the big boys really generate and control the game. Rothschild once said that the best time to invest is when the blood is running in the streets; George Bailey said, “Don’t you see? Mr. Potter is buying, not selling. We are panicky and he is not.” But Rothschild and Mr. Potter had control of the money, and the entrepreneurs did not.Inflation is bad, but “corrections” are even worse when it comes to erosion of economic freedoms. Entrepreneurs might, in theory, be at their most creative when the economy is tanking, but they are least able to get money for their ventures. The “bottom fishers” are in charge now, not the entrepreneurs. Libertarians such as the author (who writes very well, by the way) would be well advised to figure out ways to rein in both monetary expansions and monetary contractions, and not simply assume that one is bad and the other beneficial. Even the current so-called expansions (QE’s) are really nothing more than a fattening up of the balance sheets of major banks. They are not lending this money out, and the resultant steep decline in monetary velocity is keeping the economy in an extended recession.

Jordan Viray May 25, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Bubbles and corrections are occur “naturally” in the presence of a Central Bank that allows for inflationary monetary policy. Reining in the bubble and correction can be done through ending the Fed. If you haven’t noticed, that is a fairly consistent policy recommendation by everyone at Mises.

You are also wrong in suggesting correction is worse than the bubble. The correction reduces malinvestment whereas bubbles have the opposite effect.

Gurrie Rhoads May 26, 2011 at 12:00 am

“Malinvestment”. That’s another term that is just as silly as bubble and correction. Probably similar to “malpurchases” or “malsavings”, eh? This is what happens when people start thinking of economic trends as “good” or “bad”. I could give you hundreds of examples of why a so-called “correction” is more harmful to economic freedom than the inflation it is supposedly correcting, but since neither one is good, I won’t risk sounding like I am pro-inflation. I am not, but neither should anyone kid themselves that any of this monetary manipulation is natural or beneficial.

Jordan Viray May 26, 2011 at 12:49 am

The term malinvestment seems to carry a connotation stemming from the root “mal” meaning bad. Strictly speaking, it refers to investment in activities that would not have been invested otherwise had inflationary policy not occurred. Of course the low interest rate that signaled the capital budgeting process to include those extra activities do not reflect real savings and as such those extra activities cannot be fully completed.

As those investments represent various ends, those ends become frustrated. The bubble necessitates the correction. The correction implies the ceasing of ever increasing investment in unsustainable activities.

No Austrian is “kidding” himself into believing monetary manipulation is good or natural. Take your empty allegations somewhere else.

Gurrie Rhoads May 26, 2011 at 10:38 am

It seemed to me that you were saying that monetary manipulations that create “corrections” are a good thing. If you believe that the corrections are a naturally occurring phenomenon, rather than stemming from a monetary manipulation, then we are obviously proceeding from different information or assumptions. Please, however, reexamine the events that have led up to, and flowed out of, each major recession and depression. The Federal Reserve itself was part of a “correction”. The SEC, FTC, WPA, FDIC, etc etc were all parts of a “correction”. Even in the Reagan era, the entire Savings & Loan industry was taken over by a relatively few banks — the instrument was the RTC, part of a “correction”. Now the push is for ever tighter banking regulations and the takeover of smaller banks, using the FDIC and the taxpayers as an instrument. My bottom line is this — in an inflationary period, I fear for the value of my money. In a recession, I fear for my very freedom.

Jordan Viray May 26, 2011 at 2:00 pm

1) I don’t believe monetary manipulations are a good thing (not sure where you got that idea from)

2) The corrections are a natural result of monetary manipulation (something which is itself artificial). However, the bust part of the cycle at least brings the economy closer to normal than the boom cycle. In that sense it is good.

3) The Fed, SEC and all of these agencies are government phenomena which have no legitimate role in the market. Sure the Fed can increase its artificially low interest rates to end the boom which will bring about the correction, but the direction of causality and blame stem from the Fed – not the other way around.

4) You are right that economic malaise is prime time for opportunism e.g. Hitler and Stalin and FDR. The correction has to come some time though and we can only hope and inform individuals to be wary of politicians promising quick fix remedies to a hangover they created.

Inquisitor May 27, 2011 at 8:19 am

Malinvestment refers to investments that were made without an interest rate set purely by market dynamics and therefore made on the basis of incomplete/incorrect information concerning the availability of real savings. Nothing wrong with it, and it bodes against interference in the market.

El Tonno May 25, 2011 at 7:33 pm

“They are not lending this money out, and the resultant steep decline in monetary velocity is keeping the economy in an extended recession.”

Well, that’s just pure Keynesianism.

As nicely recalled in http://mises.org/daily/918 :

According to Mises, the whole concept of velocity is hollow: “In analyzing the equation of exchange one assumes that one of its elements–total supply of money, volume of trade, velocity of circulation–changes, without asking how such changes occur. It is not recognized that changes in these magnitudes do not emerge in the Volkswirtschaft [political economy, or more loosely `economy'] as such, but in the individual actors’ conditions, and that it is the interplay of the reactions of these actors that results in alterations of the price structure. The mathematical economists refuse to start from the various individuals’ demand for and supply of money. They introduce instead the spurious notion of velocity of circulation fashioned according to the patterns of mechanics.” (Human Action, p. 399)

Gurrie Rhoads May 26, 2011 at 12:38 am

There are some parts of Mises’ Chapter XVII that I agree with and other parts I do not. I do not agree, for example, with his stressing the “medium of exchange” aspects of money at the expense of its “store of value” aspects. He pays the latter some heed when he says “Money is a medium of exchange. It is the most marketable good which people acquire because they want to offer it in later acts of interpersonal exchange.” (which they won’t be able to do if it has not kept its value.) The problem is, though, that money should not be thought of as a “marketable good” in the first place. It is supposed to be a measure of marketable goods, not a marketable good itself. It is the denominator, not the numerator. It will not be viewed as being suitable as a medium of exchange if its loses its value on a consistent basis. I will re-read Chapter XVII carefully, for I think that he was talking more about how the concept of velocity of circulation is misused in the aggregate, not that money can have no velocity of circulation. If not, then I would be happy to elaborate further on why money does have velocity and why it is important.

Gerry Flaychy May 26, 2011 at 2:17 pm

The first purpose of what we call money is to be exchanged, not to be stored. It is firstly a medium of exchange, not a medium of ‘storing’.

The exchange value of money fluctuate as well as the exchange value of any good or service on the market. It is not necessary that this money kept its value to continue to be exchanged.
Even if this value go down continually as in the U.S.A, peoples continue to use it as a medium of exchange.

When this value go down faster and faster, peoples tend to exchange it on the market as fast as they can.

Gurrie Rhoads May 26, 2011 at 2:29 pm

I respectfully disagree. The one and only reason that people use money as a medium of exchange in the first place is that they expect it to hold its value for a reasonable period of time. If it doesn’t, they don’t simply spend it faster as you suggest, they exchange it for something that is more reliable such as gold or stronger currrencies.

Gerry Flaychy May 26, 2011 at 5:09 pm

“By 1923, the wildest inflation in history was raging. Often prices doubled in a few hours. A wild stampede developed to buy goods and get rid of money. By late 1923 it took 200 billion marks buy a loaf of bread.”

“By mid-1923 workers were being paid as often as three times a day. Their wives would meet them, take the money and rush to the shops to exchange it for goods.”


Keith May 26, 2011 at 6:37 pm


I think you’ll find the root cause of the German hyper inflation in the Weimar Republic’s over printing, for the dual purposes of paying off the punitive reparations demanded by the French, and funding of their own extension of the Bismarkian centralised planning and entitlement programs.

A few weeks back I had the loan of a couple hundred billion in various denominations of Zim dollars, to scan for posterity. One of the notes was $100,000,000,000 but probably worth less in purchasing power than a single square of toilet tissue. The man who lent them to me, said he knew things were bad, when a single hens egg sold for $100,000,000, and the price went up in the time you were in the shop.

Gurrie Rhoads May 26, 2011 at 11:02 am

I have re-read Chapter XVII and I do not agree with your interpretation of it. Mises is attacking the formulaic MV = PT on the grounds that these things are not quantifiable in the way that the mathematical economists are using them. I agree with him about MV = PT and also agree that any study of the effect of changes in the money supply must proceed from praxeology rather than broadly defined aggregates. I agree that he has properly come to grips with the differences between what he calls money and money-certificates and what he calls “fiduciary money”, and how changes in the latter can affect purchasing power. I am still not certain, however, what role, if any, he assigns to “velocity”, because he deals with it primarily in connection with M-1. I will even concede that perhaps I am misusing the term velocity, because M-1 of course does not count “cash in the vault” of banks or the Fed and if Mises is using it only in connection with M-1, then there is no argument. My main point, though, was that extra money creation that goes nowhere except into the financial statements of the banks cannot be said to be causing a stimulus to the economy.

Saildog May 26, 2011 at 12:36 am

Not saving Lehmans was arbitrary, mostly timing. Had another bank failed earlier maybe they would have gone and Lehmans survived. My own view is there should have been no bailout. We should have taken the pain then and there. Nevertheless the government borrowed unprecedented sums of money from the future and kicked the can down the road. They have been remarkably consistent at failing to deal with the issues. The one surprising thing since 2008 is how adroit the Fed and its equivalent around the world is at kicking the can down the road (aka QE n). The only question remains is how long can they do it? One of the key inputs into the economy, energy, is spluttering along. Oil production hasn’t increased since 2004 and more alarmingly exports/imports are down by nearly 10%. That is why gas is $4. Oil at these prices is an effective limiter on the economy. No matter what the government or anybody else does, the economy cannot expand beyond efficiency gains unless oil production increases.

Al Sledge May 26, 2011 at 5:14 am

The “Too big to fail” is a term fabricated by controllers of the organization. That somehow the economy would cease to exist if the organization ceases to exist. Yet the reality is nothing would change except the livelihoods of the organization’s controllers, those clamoring for bailout money. The assets, the buildings, staff, and machinery would not cease to exist but would rather be sold or passed on to more skillful hands. The too big to fail idea is a sham and a scam. Failure is nature’s way of pointing out bad decisions. Failure not only visits businesses, but also families, nations, currencies, and societies, if the errors are to numerous.

Also interesting is the follow-up discussion on the definition of money. The “store of value” is what I was taught, but the “most marketable commodity” is what I have learned. Like it or not we still live in a barter economy trading commodities. We buy products that do not have fixed prices and we trade (sell money) that as a result, does not have a fixed value. We buy money by selling our skills and knowledge, yet these too vary day to day in their value to others. It turns out that the “dismal science” is much more exciting than I ever would have thought possible. I thank Milton Friedman for leading me to Ludwig von Mises, and in turn to the writers and folks who comment on these articles and force me to think ever more deeply on the subject. My “day job” is physics oriented, and the more I learn of physics, the less I believe in the physics of economics. Humans act, particles and planets only react!

Gurrie Rhoads May 27, 2011 at 1:53 am


I liked your post, but I again would like to put in a further comment about “store of value” versus money as a “commodity”. My own view is that it is a mistake to think of money as a commodity, although perhaps we are splitting hairs here (rather than atoms?). I believe that a “commodity” should be viewed as something you expect to actually consume (utilize, eat, play with, whatever) for its own sake. Money is not useful for its own sake, only for what you expect to be able to purchase with it. You can’t always know exactly what use you will put the money to, and when you will want to spend it. Even when you do know (a rental or mortgage payment, a planned shopping trip, a vacation, etc) you hold the money until a specific time, at which point you will spend it, not consume it for its own sake. The point is that between the time you receive it and the time you plan to spend it, you do not want its value to erode. Clearly, your value concepts as to what you want to buy with it can change and change often, but you want the generalized purchasing power of the money itself to remain as dependable as possible. Commodities can be perishable and it is o.k. You don’t usually buy fresh bread this week if you know you aren’t going to eat it until next week, so you keep the money to be used for that purpose until next week. The gasoline in your car is going to get used up as you drive, but that’s o.k. because your purpose was to travel, not to hold onto the gasoline. With any commodity, the consideration is always the use of the item itself, for its own sake. With money, its use is always measured in terms of what else you will be able to do with it besides holding it. Yes its purpose is to be useful for exchange, but if you constantly have to worry about whether it will keep its value, you and others like you will not continue to use it as a medium of exchange.

bobio May 27, 2011 at 2:32 pm

I think Bernanke and company did a fantastic job saving the country. Given the political situation of all of that not sure they really had much choice.

Keith May 27, 2011 at 3:41 pm

“I had no choice”
“They left me no choice”
“It had to be done”
“Someone had to do something”
“I acted for the greater good”

I’m pretty sure the road to hell is paved with such post hocs

Peter Seerman May 28, 2011 at 2:04 am

I am always amazed when I find people saying government regulations should be eliminated. Universally they are either ignorant as to what it would mean or know exactly what it would mean, which is that businesses could do whatever they want and the people would have no protections. It’s an ideal state for corporations who want to go back to the days of robber barons and such. Of course those who know this are the corporations, and those who don’t are sheep who have drunk the corporate kool-aid and think the government is out to hurt the little people. What nobody realizes is that one role of the government is (ideally) to promote the general welfare of the people, and that requires regulations, laws and oversight. Corporations want to rule themselves so they can make as much money as they can and not spend any money on safety, environment and the like. They call this freedom, but really they want a free-for-all for themselves. Your Lehman plan might sound like a sound model of survival of the fittest, but it would leave in it’s wake massive destruction, waves of unemployment, a suffering lower economic class, and only the wealthy few would become better off. Sorry, but putting the fox in charge of the hen house is not a good idea.

El Tonno May 28, 2011 at 5:36 am

Thank you for the socialist cant.

But really….

“Businesses could do whatever they want and the people would have no protections.” … there would be no laws at all?

“The days of robber barons and such” … didn’t exist in the first place.

“One role of the government is (ideally) to promote the general welfare of the people, and that requires regulations, laws and oversight.” … actually, the one role of the government is to pay government employees, keep the same people elected and shuffle money to cronies. That means ignoring regulations, break laws and pretend oversight.

“Corporations want to rule themselves so they can make as much money as they can and not spend any money on safety, environment and the like.” … there is much wrong and some right with this statement, but please tell me how government managed to create for example safe cars out of thin air?

“Your Lehman plan might sound like a sound model of survival of the fittest, but it would leave in it’s wake massive destruction, waves of unemployment, a suffering lower economic class, and only the wealthy few would become better off.” … as we are not currently in the throes of massive destruction, waves of unemployment, a suffering lower economic class, and only the wealthy few better of.

“Government is much like Violence. If it doesn’t work, you are not using enough of it.”

Dagnytg May 28, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Peter Seerman,

You appear to be new to this site and have not taken time to understand libertarian ethics nor Austrian economics. I cannot, in this comment, empower you with a lifetime of libertarian contemplation, observation, introspection, and education. I wish I could. It would make my mission so much easier.

In the mean time, I will address a few of your comments.

…businesses could do whatever they want and the people would have no protections

By what ethical theory am I to believe that businesses want to do me harm? All businesses are at the mercy of their customers. Without customers (consumers) they cease to exist. (Unless the gov’t bails them out that is…)

Corporations want to rule themselves so they can make as much money as they can and not spend any money on safety, environment and the like.

Though I disagree with your statement, if I accept it as fact, then why is it that most business and environmental regulations are written by corporations???

You would think that corporations would be lining up behind the libertarian movement. They’re not…why? Big business needs regulations to keep out competition and minimize risk and liability; in turn, these regulations create moral hazard and this begets more regulations and so on…(all the while blaming the free market which doesn’t exist.)

Your Lehman plan might sound like a sound model of survival of the fittest, but it would leave in it’s wake massive destruction, waves of unemployment, a suffering lower economic class, and only the wealthy few would become better off.

Hasn’t your prediction come true? Don’t we have massive unemployment, economic punishment of the poor, and only the wealthy few (Wall Street) better off?

Peter I am confused … so, let me get this straight…

You want us protected from the evil corporatist establishment through gov’t regulation… written by evil corporatist’s to their benefit and in the rare moment when the market is allowed to eliminate some of their members… you want to save their sorry asses and bail them out? Really?

Peter, you will find that libertarianism is pro people and anti-government. Because of our anti-government stance, we are essentially anti-corporatist.

You should consider joining us… (We share the same concerns. It is only in approach and application that we are different.) I wish you luck on your intellectual journey…

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