Over the last bunch of years Wall Street justified the extravagent amounts that people were paid by saying, "look at the profits we're producing." And now if you look at the writeoffs that firms have taken, most of those profits turned out to be completely illusury, because the profits had been decimated by the writeoffs. In other words, the profits weren't real in the first place. So people have already collected millions of dollars that, in a strictly speaking economic sense, they weren't really entitled to.
~ Bethany McLean, Interview on PBS NOW, January 31, 2009