Brooklyn born, Joseph J. "Joe" Cassano (age 53 in 2008) is the son of a cop who made good by becoming the president of AIG Financial Products. He ran the division from it's inception in 1987 until his resignation in February 2008.
Cassano is considered, not "a" key figure, but "the" key figure in the Global financial crisis of 2008–2009. Political writer Matt Taibbi nicknamed him "Patient Zero" of the global economic meltdown."
As head of the Financial Products unit, Cassano racked up billions of losses while assuring investors it was nearly impossible for his unit to lose. "It is hard for us, without being flippant, to even see a scenario within any kind of [rhyme] or reason that would see us losing one dollar in any of those transactions," he told investors.
By the time he was finally fired last March, Cassano pocketed $280 million in cash and an additional $34 million in bonuses. In addition, and presumably for his sensational job performance, under a "retirement" agreement marked "confidential," Cassano also received a $1 million-a-month "consulting fee."
AIG subsequently cut off these payments, by September of 2008, but Cassano still walked away with more than $315 million while the company staggered under $440 billion in liabilities. Taxpayers had to shovel in $170 billion in bailout money.
To put Cassano's personal score in context, his end is three times the annual budget of his alma mater, Brooklyn College, to which he has not contributed a dime. [Daily News]