Maurice "Hank" Greenberg had a decade to forget. In 2005, amid an accounting scandal and a high-profile battle with then-New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, Greenberg was ousted as CEO of AIG, the insurance behemoth he built up and led for nearly four decades. Then Greenberg lost several billion dollars in personal net worth when shares of the deeply troubled company plummeted amid the financial chaos of 2008.
Greenberg (not to be confused with Ace Greenberg, the longtime former CEO of Bear Stearns) has worked hard to restore his name, speaking out against the excessive compensation and risk-taking practices that helped put AIG on the road to near ruin while fending off allegations surrounding his role in the historic financial industry fiasco.
"We had a culture of being innovative but prudent," the 84-year-old Greenberg told ABCNews.com earlier this year. "You rewarded creativity, not stupidity."
This past summer, Greenberg made headlines for more than just his AIG critiques when he admitted in a Manhattan court that employees of his private company, Starr International, had AIG stock certificates once worth $4.3 billion flown to Bermuda by plane. Greenberg said he authorized the transfer to avoid improper attempts by AIG to seize the stock. A federal judge and jury sided with Greenberg and Starr International. Greenberg and AIG have since resolved all differences, with AIG required to pay up to $150 million of Greenberg's legal fees.
Sheila Bair tells is like it is. As chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, where she acts as one of the country's top bank regulators, Bair has earned a reputation as an outspoken policy wonk who is not afraid to criticize lawmakers, bankers and White House policies. The FDIC oversees the 8,070 banks in the U.S. that hold FDIC-insured deposits, and its mission is to instill public confidence in the U.S. financial system. Maybe that's why Bair, who has also written two children's books, keeps Main Street Americans' interests close to heart.
Her most recent zinger? Telling PBS that Treasury's decision to pump money into banks considered "too big to fail" was a bad idea because it has outraged Americans. Said Bair of the Wall Street bailout: "It's had a terrible, terrible impact on public attitudes toward the financial system."
While Bair generally receives positive press, she is not above reproach. Critics point to the mixed success of the massive loan modification program she helped push through Congress and for her knee-jerk reactions against large institutions. Looking ahead, she has a lot of work to do: 124 banks have already failed this year, more than 500 are still on the FDIC's "problem list" and the FDIC fund that guarantees bank deposits is desperately short of cash.
Wen Jiabao, the prime minister of China, is driving a roaring engine. The world's most populous country is quickly rising to the top of the global economic heap, with a growth rate that has barely been touched by recession. In fact, China recently overtook Germany to become the world's third-largest economy and its biggest exporter of goods.