You may think these big, sinister banks who brought down the economy are the apogee of evil, but it's now been revealed that many of these lawless, rampaging Hulks actually have "alter egos" they use for their really shady stuff. That's how one former trader for Lehman Brothers trader described the firm's relationship with a mysterious, shadowy company called Hudson Castle. According to the Times, its awesome superpowers included lending money to Lehman, reducing Lehman’s "moral obligation" to support its off-balance sheet vehicles, and protecting Lehman from "headline risk" if any of its deals went sideways. Worked like a charm! Oh, right, actually it didn't. But alter egos are still perfectly legal!

Lehman and other banks use these alter egos to temporarily transfer their exposure to risky investments, such as those subprime mortgages that helped ruin us. In Lehman's case, Hudson Castle was controlled by Lehman's board and staffed by former Lehman employees, but its role in the company was never disclosed to shareholders. Sometimes Lehman used Hudson Castle to undertake transactions totaling $1 billion. The Times describes Lehman's alter ego as part of "a vast financial system that operates in the shadows of Wall Street, largely beyond the reach of banking regulators."

"Everybody’s talking about preventing the next crisis, but they can’t prevent the next crisis if they don’t understand all these incestuous relationships," says accounting consultant Francine McKenna. Great, now Obama's probably going to ram an anti-insect bill down Congress's throat. But look, "there were no bad intentions around any of this stuff," insists one reassuring former Lehman employee who is probably married to his sister.

Nevertheless, questions linger about the alter ego's alter ego: Hudson Castle created a "legal entity" called Fenway, which lent money to Lehman as the firm fell apart. But the elaborate ruse collapsed when Lehman tried to pledge its Fenway bank notes to JPMorgan as collateral for other loans. And they would have gotten away with it too—if it weren't for those meddling JP Morgan analysts, who "concluded that Fenway was worth practically nothing."