There have been many financial crashes throughout the course of history; however, none have been so significant or globally damaging as the financial crash that occurred in 2008. Not only did it impact the United States and millions of American families, but the world economy and financial sectors shook under the weight of banks falling on their swords.

When the housing market crashed, the writing was on the wall. After years of bad business practices, banks across the globe were finally meeting their maker and paying the consequences for their actions. While many financial leaders claimed there was no way to predict the fall of the wholesale money market, all you have to do is look at the way loans were handled to spot the warnings signs.

For starters, the early 2000s saw a boom in subprime mortgage lending, as well as offering mortgage loans to applicants without income verification. Banks and other financial institutions would continue to expand their loan acquisitions, knowing the risks and the possibility that the loans could eventually turn into “toxic debt.” Although the banks are definitely to blame, it’s the financial leaders who are solely responsible for allowing such business practices continue.

There have been several financial leaders identified around the world who have contributed to the collapse of 2008 in many different ways. While it’s easy to generalize blame, it’s important to call out these men and women who took advantage of borrowers with false promises that would eventually end in insurmountable debt and foreclosure.

We’ve done our research and have identified 20 bankers and financial executives who were directly (or indirectly) responsible for a significant part of the financial crisis. Once you’ve read these stories, you’ll agree that not only could the 2008 crash have been prevented but all of these individuals had it coming to them.


20. Angelo Mozilo

Image: The New York Times

Angelo Mozilo was the son of a butcher and came from very humble beginnings before co-founding Countrywide and building it into the largest mortgage lender in the United States. He was one of the main contributors to the housing crash of 2008 by establishing the notion that anyone could handle a large mortgage. By allowing individuals to take out a mortgage that they had no chance of paying back, the crash destroyed Countrywide. Recently, Mozilo took a hefty pay package and resigned from the company after its rescue-sale to Bank of America.

19. Phil Gramm

Image: Salon

Gramm was the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee from 1995 to 2000 and was an outspoken advocate for financial deregulation. He assisted with the 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which separated commercial banks from Wall Street. Gramm also wrote key provisions in the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which helped exempt credit-default swaps from regulation. His heavy hand in pushing for deregulation was directly responsible for the crash of AIG, costing the United States billions.

18. Alan Greenspan

Image: Time

Alan Greenspan was the Federal Reserve Chairman and directly responsible for bringing about the mortgage crisis. While he once saved the stock market from crashing in 1987, his constant disdain for regulations and his push for super-low interest rates eventually crashed the market. He eventually admitted to Congress that his actions were a mistake, but by then it was too little too late.

17. Chris Cox

Image: Time

Chris Cox turned a blind eye to multiple allegations of fraud within the SEC while he was chief and contributed to the financial collapse of 2008 by refusing to go after big investment banks. Taking very few steps to interfere with fraudulent traitors, Cox turned a blind eye to any wrongdoing. Well, we know how well that turned out.

16. Frank Raines

Image: Alchetron

Frank Raines was the CEO of Fannie Mae from 1999 to 2004. During that time, he was involved in major accounting scandals that dealt with large investments in subprime mortgage securities. These investments would later go south, which led to Raines stepping down and Fannie Mae eventually becoming a ward of the state.

15. Kathleen Corbit

Image: Time

Corbit ran Standard & Poor’s, one of the largest loan rating agencies, for over a decade. She was directly involved in providing excellent ratings to the riskiest loan pools, which would lure in investors to load on collateralized debt obligations that would eventually be unviable. The scam was eventually brought to light but, by that point, the damage was done and the 2008 financial crash already was in full swing.

14. Dick Fuld

Image: MarketWatch

Dick Fuld was known as the “Gorilla of Wall Street” and he was responsible for steering the Lehman Group into the ground thanks to subprime mortgages. This process bankrolled lenders across the United States that were making very questionable loans to borrowers who most likely could not pay them back. Fuld took these bad loans and transferred them into bonds before selling them to investors for billions. During his time as CEO, Fuld received upwards of $500 million in compensation.

13. Marion and Herb Sandler

Image: Pinterest

This shady couple founded Sanders’ World Savings Bank and they were the first to sell tricky home loans called the option ARM. For over two decades, they misled borrowers with options to back-load their loans and reduce early payments, which ended with the couple walking away with $2.3 billion after they sold their bank to Wachovia. Unfortunately, Wachovia also inherited their loan portfolio, which sank the bank in 2006. Of course, the Sandlers believe they are not the ones to blame.

12. Stan O’Neal

Image: Brad DeLong

Stan O’Neal triggered the demise of Merrill Lynch, where he was CEO for six years. He assisted with guiding the company away from their familiar business dealings of asset management and introduced collateralized debt obligations (CDOs). Merrill Lynch loaded up on over $41 billion in subprime CDOs and mortgage bonds, which would be their undoing when the market crashed in 2008. Merrill Lynch was eventually sold to Bank of America.

11. Tom Hayes

Image: Prison UK

Tom Hayes was a former trader who was sentenced to fourteen years in prison for his role in the Libor scandal. Hayes attempted to fraudulently rig the London interbank offered rate (also known as Libor). This rate is what the banks utilized to charge one another for loans in the London market. Hayes and the scandal had global repercussions because the Libor was the key benchmark for short-term interests around the globe.

10. Mervyn King

Image: Zero Hedge

The governor of the Bank of England actually contributed to the United States’ financial crisis when he cut interest rates to a post-war low of 3.5%. His reasoning was that monetary-policy making would eventually become “boring” without taking risks. Unfortunately, as the crash took hold, King refused to flow cash into the financial statement, using the excuse of “moral hazard” and believing some banks did not deserve a bailout. This lack of being pro-active shook the international financial community for many years.

9. Gordon Brown

Image: Daily Express

The former British prime minister contributed to the global financial crash when he put his own interests above the economy. By backing regulations that offered a low-tax regime for thousands of non-domiciled foreign bankers, he boosted private equity business at the expense of damaging the local British economy. Let’s just say, he isn’t remembered fondly.

8. Abby Cohen

Image: Reuters

Abby Cohen is the former chief US strategist for Goldman Sachs and was once dubbed the most powerful woman in the country. Unfortunately, her failure to see previous share-price crashes and her unrealistic upwards forecasts would be her undoing. When the housing market crashed in 2008, the blame was placed in part on her misguided ideas. In the end, she would get the boot—going from financial hero to a big, fat zero.

7. Andy Hornby

Image: The Telegraph

Andy Hornby was considered to be a rising star in the financial world. He was respected and admired, graduating at the top of his class at Harvard. Unfortunately, he made a few missteps at HBOS, a banking and insurance firm in the United Kingdom; he took over as chief executive, along with Halifax. His mismanagement of finances and attempt to apply the same terms and conditions as the Bank of Scotland led to HBOS being taken over by the Lloyds TBS Group. In 2013, the Banking Standards Commission recommended barring Hornby from all future roles in the financial sector.

6. Ralph Cioffi

Image: The New York Sun

Ralph Cioffi was a banker for Bear Stearns and one of the key players in triggering the credit crunch that lead to the financial collapse in 2008. Accused of lying to investors regarding funds that were put into subprime business dealings, Cioffi was indicted for fraud when two hedge funds he oversaw collapsed. He was also accused of withdrawing personal funds from the subprime accounts when the business began to tank. He seems like a real nice guy, don’t you think?

5. Lewis Ranieri

Image: Wall Street

Ranier is considered the “godfather” of mortgage finance and helped pioneer mortgage-backed bonds in the 1980s. Although he knew in 2006 that continuing mortgage securitization at such a quick pace could prove to be trouble, he went against his best interests. Unfortunately, his company, the Franklin Bank Corp would go belly up after the credit crunch, leaving his legacy in shambles.

4. Chuck Prince

Image: NY Daily News

Chuck Prince is the former CEO of Citi Bank and was one of the key players in building it into one of the largest banks in the world. Unfortunately, he also played a critical role in its downfall as well. Known for its expansive structure that included investment banking, high-street banking, and management for wealthy clients, Citi would eventually drift into subprime mortgage territory. When profits began to tank in 2007, Prince continued to forge ahead—but when the subprime business surfaced, he was ousted when the bank took a multi-billion dollar loss. Don’t feel too bad for him though, he received a nice $140 million payout.

3. Adam Applegarth

Image: The Times

Adam Applegarth is the former boss of Northern Rock Bank in England. Applegarth had very high ambitions, leading the way for subprime mortgages and piling on way more loans than the bank could handle. When the mortgage crisis went into nuclear meltdown, he walked away from everything he built. In the aftermath, Northern Rock was nationalized and Applegarth’s career effectively ended at the young age of 39.

2. Steve Crenshaw

Image: Daily Mail

Steve Crenshaw is the former boss of Bradford & Bingley, which was a building society that Crenshaw retooled into a specialist buy-to-let-loan business that also specialized in self-certified mortgages. These loans were nicknamed “liar loans” because the applicant never had to show proof of income. Crenshaw foolishly thought his business and financial expertise would keep him one step ahead, but when the wholesale money market collapses, the business took a downward turn. Borrowers could no longer pay back their loans, spiraling into debt, while Crenshaw continued to ask shareholders for money. In the end, Crenshaw claimed heart problems were impacting his health and stepped down before B & B crashed and burned.

1. Sir Fred Goodwin

Image: Daily Express

Sir Fred Goodwin is the former Chief Executive Officer of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group and was once considered the country’s “favorite” businessman. Unfortunately, his strategy of excessive lending to businesses that could not repay their loans would lead to his downfall.  At the end of his tenure, the RBS had lost billions and was 70% owned by the government thanks to Goodwin’s misuse of acquisition write-downs.