What's a mild-mannered insurance company doing selling exotic derivatives to everyone in sight? Merely setting the stage for a $100 billion bailout by the U.S. government and becoming the poster child of the meltdown. From its London branch office, AIG's CDS chief Joseph Cassano minted money for the company for a couple of years, and garnered huge payouts for himself, by basically selling everyone in the world insurance that the Titanic wouldn't sink. What were the odds of that happening? Instead of Titanic, insert CDOs, short for collateralized debt obligations. You get the picture. As the value of those contracts plummeted, AIG found itself facing insolvency. And taxpayers found themselves paying the bill.
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