Despite the complex dynamics involved in the recent financial collapse, the Pulitzer winning investigation presented in this single is easy to follow and understand.
The 'bad guy' in this story is the 'CDO - collateralized debt obligation', a box full of commitments to pay, i.e., mortgages. The banks created, sold and bought loads and loads of CDOs, unfortunately many of them made up from loans given to people who could not pay back. The all system started to crumble when nobody wanted to buy this latter and riskiest (toxic) portion of the CDOs. The banks then began to buy their own toxic CDOs exposing themselves to a huge risk of not getting back the enormous amount of money they lent. We all know that what was a risk is now a certainty since from all over the world banks have lost their (or better, our) money.
Only few 'smart' individuals earned from this disaster, those who insured themselves against such a risk. Once the toxic CDOs defaulted the insurance companies had to pay them back.
--- The single is full of the names of the people who made this possible, it is very interesting to see their faces and learn what they are doing now.
--- You can find all the articles collected in this single free of charge in ProPublica's website, but this is really the case in which is more than worth to buy it.