Cassano is alleged to have been responsible for losses of $500bn (£360bn) dealing in worthless ‘toxic’ debts. The team that he headed took huge bets on complex financial instruments called ‘credit default swaps’ used to insure US mortgages and other debts. When the US housing market fell out, the team realised that they had to come up with half a trillion dollars and all they had was a couple of million. The company received a $132 billion taxpayer bailout.
When he was sacked in March 2008 Cassano received $280 million in cash and an additional $34 million in bonuses. He continued to receive $1 million a month until the end of September 2008, even after AIG had received $85 billion in government support. When asked in October why the company still retained Cassano at his $1 million-a-month rate CEO Martin Sullivan told Congress AIG wanted to “retain the 20-year knowledge that Mr. Cassano had.”
During the US Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission in June 2010 Cassano told members that AIG had managed its credit risks and underwriting practices well. The trouble had been ‘vanishing liquidity’.