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By Fred Schulte, Center for Public Integrity medicarecard

The third of February 2011 was mostly a ho-hum day on Wall Street­ — but not for companies offering Medicare Advantage plans. Several of those firms hit the jackpot, tacking on billions of dollars in new value after federal officials signaled they might go easy on health plans suspected of overcharging the government.

The stocks took off after the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services advised the health plans in a memo that it was rethinking a move to ratchet up audits of the privately run Medicare plans. Some of these plans are run by publicly traded insurance companies whose fortunes can rise and fall significantly upon news of a change in Medicare policy.

Editor’s note: Nearly five years ago, on Sept. 15, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. filed for Chapter 11, the largest bankruptcy in the nation’s history. The move set off a series of dramatic actions in Washington, D.C., and on Wall Street as bankers and regulators sought to avoid a shutdown of the global economy. To mark the anniversary, the Center for Public Integrity is publishing a three-part series on what has happened since the meltdown. In this story, we focus on the Wall Street bankers who fed the subprime mortgage machine, without regard to risk.

By Alison Fitzgerald, Center for Public Integrity lehmanbros

Five years after the near-collapse of the nation’s financial system, the economy continues a slow recovery marred by high unemployment, hesitant consumers and sluggish business investment.

Many of the top Wall Street bankers who were largely responsible for the disaster — and whose companies either collapsed or accepted billions in government bailouts — are also unemployed. But since they walked away from the disaster with millions, they’re juggling their ample free time between mansions and golf, skiing and tennis.