“The chain of catastrophic bets made over the past decade by a few hundred bankers may well turn out to be the greatest nonviolent crime against humanity in history.” Those were the prescient words of Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter in June 2009.
The hunt for someone to blame has taken on epidemic proportions during the past year. Literally everyone has put in their oar – the NYSE and LSE, the World Court, the World Bank and every major law firm have tried to find an angle that would somehow recoup at least some of the funds for devastated investors – who certainly agree, as a powerful lobby group, with the “greatest nonviolent human crime in history” opinion.
Many culprits have been ‘fingered’, but yesterday’s decision by British police to hand over a former AIG trader to US authorities to answer a class action suit, has again focused the minds of those who lost their life’s savings on revenge.
Joseph Cassano has been accused of bringing down the insurance giant AIG and, by inference, to have primary responsibility for the economic cataclysm which has become known as the Credit Crunch. In the process it is well documented that he pocketed US$315 million while the company staggered under US$440 billion in liabilities.
It was he who drove those now derided credit default swaps as a way to grow higher profits.
The prosecution alleges that he acted with deliberate criminal intent, over a period of years, even when it became patently obvious that there was no economic or market basis for making these huge trades.
In his defense, his legal team is claiming that he was merely “incompetent” and that the AIG management system should have spotted his “entirely human errors.”