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Jun 24, 2010
Reading the New York Times is an onerous chore under the best of circumstances, and reading Gretchen Morgenson’s Sunday business column “Fair Game” must be accepted as a penance worth centuries in Purgatory. Still, if one reads Our Gal Sunday long enough, some small pleasures can be found. Today, I found one.
Nominally, it was just a 300-word story by wretched Gretchen with the headline “A.I.G. Executive Won’t Be Sued.” Talk about a non-story.
Ah, but you have to know the story behind the story. The executive in question was none other than Joseph J. Cassano, whom Michael Lewis (in his usual understated fashion) had dubbed “the man who crashed the world.” Naturally, Morgenson had been part of the lynch mob, and in September 2008 wrote a 2500-word story indicting Cassano for all manner of evil, from living in a nice neighborhood to having once been employed by Drexel Burnham (which, she reminded us, once employed Michael Milken).
So, it was with some pleasure last month that I saw a Morgenson story admitting federal prosecutors would not be bringing criminal charges against Cassano. Now comes the clincher: the SEC won’t even be bringing civil charges. That puts Cassano in elite company, with Samuel Insull and Frank Quattrone, as one who has been designated by the media as the epitome of business evil and yet has escaped.
One can only hope that Lewis and Morgenson will not escape criticism for their hit job, and perhaps will not be so quickly and universally believed the next time they accuse some businessman of malfeasance.