Wall Street Titans Who Caused Financial Crisis Still Living Large Today

The April 2015 edition of Vanity Fair includes a feature article titled “Wall Street Executives from the Financial Crisis of 2008: Where Are They Now?” Author William D. Cohan tracked down 10 key figures in the 2008 Financial Crisis and its aftermath to see what they were up to today. All remain fabulously wealthy, but most have retreated behind the walls of their many luxury estates to enjoy their hard-earned and well-deserved riches out of the public eye.

Jimmy Cayne

The former CEO of failed investment bank Bear Stearns is still worth several hundred million dollars, including several luxury properties up and down the east coast. Cayne remains a serous contract bridge player at age 81, and participated in the 15-day Red Bull World Bridge Series in China in October of 2014. In December of last year, just two months after the bridge tourney, Cayne was deposed for a pending legal action. Apparently, Cayne’s memories about what happened back during the 2008 financial crisis have become cloudy.

According to a source who was present for the deposition, Cayne said “he no longer remembers anything about the adequacy of Bear’s risk models. He no longer admits to having had anything to do with the decision to close down the two problematic Bear Stearns hedge funds that had disastrously invested in subprime mortgages. He doesn’t remember being notified about problems on Bear’s trading desk, or about Bear’s inability to obtain financing from the market, or the billions of dollars of lethal mortgage-backed securities on its balance sheet.”

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Stan O’Neal

Stan O’Neal, the former chairman and C.E.O. of Merrill Lynch & Co., which also went under during the financial crisis, is also reportedly bitter about how his firm was treated, but he can take solace in the fact that he left with a $161.5 million severance package, on top of his 2006 total compensation of of $91.4 million.

John Thain

John Thain, a Goldman Sachs alum and former C.E.O. of the New York Stock Exchange, turned down an interview request from Cohan. Thain received a $15 million signing bonus to replace O’Neal as the CEO of Merrill in early 2008. After managing Merrill’s unwinding and sale when Bank of America bought it for $50 billion in stock just nine months later. Thain has been the chairman and CEO of CIT Group, a middle-market lender, since early 2010. His net worth is estimated to be at least $600 million.

Ken Lewis

Ken Lewis, the former C.E.O. of Bank of America who bought Merrill Lynch, isn’t feeling very talkative either. “Thanks for the opportunity but I have no desire to go back to that time,” Lewis told Cohan when he requested an interview to talk about the financial crisis. In March of last year, Lewis settled with Eric Schneiderman, the New York State attorney general, accepting a three-year ban from service as an officer of a public company and agreeing to pay a $10 million fine.

Jamie Dimon unfolding the details of 2008 financial crisis

Jamie Dimon, the 58-year-old chairman and CEO of JPMorgan, has no problems with his memory regarding the financial crisis. In his interview with Cohan, he recalled details about the unfolding crisis that led to the collapses of Lehman Brothers, AIG., Wachovia, and Citigroup, then nearly of Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. “There were some breathless moments, like ‘Oh my God, the whole American system is in trouble,’ ” he says.

Dimon also admitted rescuing Bear Stearns was probably a mistake. “In a new world we wouldn’t buy Bear,” he noted. “There was just too much litigation afterwards, and we were held responsible for their historic mistakes.” Of note, JPMorgan Chase has paid out over $35.2 billion in fines and penalties to settle the numerous scandals, frauds, and mistakes that were uncovered due to investigations of the financial crisis.

Dimon is also a very wealthy man. The value of his shares in JPMorgan alone is close to $500 million.