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Thomas Russo remembers the events of September 2008 better than most. On Sept. 15, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., where Russo had worked as general counsel for nearly 16 years, filed for bankruptcy protection. The next day American International Group Inc. received the largest government bailout in U.S. history (eventually growing to $180 billion). Russo couldn’t have guessed at the time that 17 months later, he would step from the rubble of Lehman to take over the top legal job at AIG.

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