Company admits slave history
A financial services firm in line to be co-underwriter of a $1.5 billion O'Hare Airport bond issue acknowledged Monday that its founding partners owned not one, but several, slaves during the Civil War era and that, "in all likelihood," it "profited significantly" from slavery.
"This is a sad part of our heritage. . . . We're deeply apologetic. ... It was a terrible thing. . . . There's no one sitting in the United States in the year 2005, hopefully, who would ever, in a million years, defend the practice," said Joe Polizzotto, general counsel of Lehman Brothers.
Polizzotto initially claimed that company research had, so far, produced no concrete information that founding brothers Mayer, Henry and Emanuel Lehman had profited from slavery. But, under questioning from aldermen, he said, "It is virtually inconceivable, given the fact that they owned slaves that were in the business that the company didn't profit in some way, shape or form, from the institution of slavery. We appreciate that fact. We know that," the general counsel said.
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