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Unprecedented banking and financial company failures and hastily arranged buyouts by regulators to avoid insolvencies have left the financial markets reeling. The Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department formulated bailouts of companies once thought solid. Congress wrangled with the $700 billion rescue package to avert further disaster. Stockholders of once-steady entities such as Washington Mutual, Wachovia, or AIG find investments lost, and some on the brink of retirement discover that their nest eggs have shrunk by 25 percent or more. As the affected masses search for people to blame and assets to tap, suits against directors, officers, accountants, and even loan agents and appraisers continue to mount.

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