James Clark’s phone rang at 4 a.m. with a message that would have been unthinkable to the Wall Street deal lawyer just months earlier.

The bleary-eyed Cahill Gordon & Reindel partner heard the terms of a deal he had helped to negotiate: a plan to stave off insolvency for residential mortgage giant GMAC. Cahill had handled the initial financing on behalf of client Bank of America. “This is the final deal, and we hope you like it,” Clark says he was told that morning in December 2008, “because President Bush is going live with it in three hours.”

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