Former Lehman Brothers CEO Richard Fuld blamed the downfall of his firm on a "financial tsunami" but took responsibility for his decisions in his first public comments since the storied Wall Street firm filed for bankruptcy last month.

Fuld, appearing before the House Government Reform Committee in Washington, D.C., said that he and other Lehman executives acted in the way they saw best, without knowing the financial turmoil that would eventually engulf the global financial markets and economy.

"Based on the information that we had at the time," Fuld told the committee, "I believed that these decisions and actions were both prudent and appropriate. None of us ever gets the opportunity to turn back the clock, but with the benefit of hindsight would I have done things differently? Yes, I would have."

Fuld said that, in retrospect, he would have made changes to the way Lehman operated in its mortgage, commercial real-estate and leveraged loan businesses two or three years earlier. Still, Fuld said, "people would have looked at me and said that it's irrational to have done that."

Fuld -- who referred to himself as a "Lehman for lifer" -- joined the firm nearly 40 years ago and manned the helm since Lehman's spin-off from American Express ( AXP) in 1994. The former executive has been criticized by some for being overly confident in the firm's ability to withstand the financial turmoil that ultimately sealed its fate, and for waiting too long to acknowledge major issues with its assets and risk.

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