No Criminal Charges at AIG?

Joseph Cassano over American International Group logo
He was called nothing less than "The Man Who Crashed The World." Today, CBS News Chief Investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian reports Joseph Cassano met with Justice Department lawyers in Washington in hopes of ending a major criminal case against him.

For the last two years Cassano has been the main target of a federal probe into the collapse of AIG - one that, sources tell CBS News - has now hit a brick wall.

It's likely no one will be held criminally liable for the downfall of the insurance giant that triggered a staggering $182 billion taxpayer bailout.

Investigators scrutinized public statements by Cassano for fraud - like this infamous comment, made as the housing bubble was about to burst:

"It's hard for us, without being flippant, to even see a scenario," Cassano said on a conference call. "That would see us losing even one dollar on any of these transactions."

But in the end, sources tell CBS News, they were unable to uncover evidence that Cassano lied to his bosses or shareholders about AIG's nearly $80 billion exposure to a cratering sub-prime mortgage market.

That drew the ire of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, who told 60 Minutes, "We had a situation where the failure of that company would have brought down the financial system," Bernanke said.

In fact, ever since the market meltdown of 2008, the head of AIG's financial products unit has been chased by the press, and villified on Capitol Hill for raking in some $300 million in salary and bonuses while pushing AIG -- the entire global financial system -- right to the brink...

In recent months, however, Cassano's lawyers, citing internal documents, argued he never broke the law or tried to cover up the losses. Instead, they said, Cassano simply got swept up in a financial tsunami, like so many here on Wall Street.

"Mistakes, even negligence, even gross negligence is not a crime," said Sean O'Shea, a former federal prosecutor.

Now, it appears, the "face" of the financial crisis will not be charged with committing one.