Determining the exact degrees of distress of WM, LEH and MER is not easy. But it is easy to see they are all on the same dreaded path of equity (and company) destruction. It's just a question of how far along it they'll go - hence their extreme volatility:

Exhibit 1: Merrill Lynch historical and implied volatility


Exhibit 2: Lehman historical and implied volatility


Exhibit 3: Washington Mutual historical and implied volatility


Course, "The Three Degrees" are more famously a fine R&B trio out of Philadelphia whose most well-known hit is the apt in the circumstances "When will I see you again?" Video below and showing better form than the financials.




Data source: Chicago Board Options Exchange

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