With all the recent problems with Bear Stearns, the news that Lehman Brothers is getting smacked with a $355 million fraud is hardly good news in a gloomy financial market.

The scam in question was allegedly perpetrated by two contract (?) employees of Marubeni Corporation, a Japanese trading house. The deal involved a loan to a company called Asclepius Limited to finance medical leases. Asclepius Limited is now bankrupt.

Although the details are still sketchy, Reuters was able get a comment from an anonymous source:

It is being reported that Lehman is claming that employees of The fraud may have hit other financial institutions as well, according to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

If Lehman’s arguments are true, the scamsters perpetrated one of the more sophisticated corporate con jobs since Enron set up a fake trading floor to impress analysts. Lehman believes the scam included forged documents and an imposter.

According to Maurbeni, they’ve fired the two employees in question and are claiming they were contract employees. Lehman Brothers is stating they intend to file a law suit to recover the money and predictably Maurbeni is claiming they are not liable.

The scam was set up by the two Maurbeni (contract?) employees, who secured the money for the loan in advance from Lehman Brothers. In performing the due diligence on the loan, Lehman met with who they thought was a general manager for Maurbeni, but was actually an impostor.

Reuters is also reporting that the now bankrupt company, Asclepius Limited is under suspicion by the Japanese government for being involved in “illegal dealings.”

I wouldn’t want to be the the Lehman executive, who was responsible for setting up the due diligence on this deal!

Blogging Stocks, who also covered this story, brought up a scary observation about how this could take a toll on Lehman Brothers:

There has been concern for several weeks that Lehman Brothers (NYSE: LEH) might have problems similar to Bear Stearns (NYSE: BSC). Customers might be worried about Lehman’s financial health and, if they were to withdraw large sums of money, the brokerage could face liquidity problems.

There is little doubt that a lot of fraud, or at the very least, “deceptive practices” led to the current financial crisis we are seeing in the mortgage industry. The mortgage crisis and this latest faux pas are clear examples of how the financial services industry needs to wake up and smell the coffee when it comes to how they conduct their daily business.

Since it is Sunday, I guess we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see if this makes a gloomy financial trend, even worse.

Reuters story, here.

Blogging Stocks story, here.

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