This new Motley Fool series examines things that just aren't right in the world of finance and investing. Here's what's got us riled today. If something's bugging you, too -- and we suspect it is -- go ahead and unload in the comments section below.
Today's subject: Hey, look who's back! It's the former head of AIG
Following the blow-up of AIG and the near-collapse of the financial system, Cassano fled to the United Kingdom to avoid criticisms, protests, and mounting criminal evidence against him and the financial products division.
Now, like the recently ousted president of Honduras, who slugged his way through 15 miles of back roads to sneak back into his country, Cassano has discreetly returned to the U.S. after an extended hiatus.
Why you should be indignant: Cassano was the man in charge of AIG's dreadful venture into credit default swaps (CDSes) tied to residential mortgages. If you're looking for someone to blame for this mess we're in, he might be your guy. In a recent Vanity Fair article, Michael Lewis called Cassano "the man who crashed the world."
Under Cassano's leadership, AIG FP increased its insurance portfolio from a measly 2% of subprime mortgages to an astounding 95%. He was the man who ran the division with so much risk that even after both Fannie Mae
Let's roll the tape. In 2007, here's what Cassano had to say about CDSes:
I think the proof is in the pudding, and I think it's these crises and these points in time that give us the wherewithal right now to stand here with you and say, on the back of giants, on the back of everybody at AIG who has built the capital that AIG has, the AIG FP unit is able to withstand this aberrant period.
Cassano estimated that the market value of possible losses related to CDSes was about $1.1 billion. Bad guess. That figure turned out to be about $40 billion. Being off by about $39 billion is quite a miscalculation from the man in charge.
Cassano has returned to his "modest" $750,000 home in Westport, Conn. It lacks the grandiosity you might find in the homes of other multimillionaires. And to be fair, it's true that Cassano has no BMWs or other flashy cars in the driveway, no corporate jet, and no golden parachute.
But don't shed a tear just yet. Cassano has hundreds of millions of dollars in the bank, and a home with an indoor pool, four bathrooms, and two fireplaces. Life must be tough.
What now? There's an investigation into criminal wrongdoing "inching along," according to Reuters, which means Cassano will likely keep his profile low. As Lewis wrote in Vanity Fair, "It would be nice if Joe Cassano came out of hiding and tried to explain what he did and why."
We couldn't agree more. But, as Lewis admitted, "there is little chance of that."
Does this leave you as wholly unsatisfied and annoyed as it does us? Or is today's subject just misunderstood? Sound off on Joe Cassano, AIG Financial Products, and the mess that group created by leaving a comment below.