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Good riddance to decade hit by scandal

The new millennium began with a sigh of relief in the business community as the feared Y2K computer bug -- thought to be capable of forcing the world's computer networks to their knees -- proved to be insignificant.

The rest of the decade was considerably less benign, as 10 long years of disaster, corporate thievery, greed and incompetence led to a decade of business instability and heartbreak.

The horror of Sept. 11, 2001, was the impetus for a roller coaster of downs, ups and sharper downs in the stock market all decade long.

But between terror attacks and the market plunge, plenty of smaller crises filled the business pages -- particularly on Long Island.

"We started with a recession, and we ended with a Great Recession," said economist Pearl Kamer of the Long Island Association. The past 10 years was when the area's long unresolved problems -- the high cost of doing business here, traffic congestion, a lack of affordable housing -- finally combined to cripple the Island's economy, she said.

Business scandal blossomed and festered all decade long, from corporate excess and pillaging at WorldCom, Enron, Arthur Ander-sen, Tyco and Adelphia to outright theft of billions of dollars from investors by Ponzi- scheme mastermind Bernard Madoff, and charges of a smaller Ponzi scheme against Nicholas Cosmo of Lake Grove.

The rise of the Internet as a marketplace and the recession crushed retailer after retailer, including Long Island-based Fortunoff and Steve & Barry's, plus Circuit City, Linens-n-Things, KB Toys and Bombay Company.

For a time, it seemed the real estate market would remain strong, surging on the cheap fuel of subprime mortgages and complicated derivatives. But when it did crash, it dragged down lenders, banks and the entire economy with it.

In 2008, Wall Street titans Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch all failed or were taken over by rivals. Others, such as American International Group, Citigroup, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, stayed in business only because the federal government pumped billions of dollars into them. In Melville, lender American Home Mortgage went under in 2007; just weeks ago Lend America failed.

A record number of thrifts and banks went under, including Washington Mutual, IndyMac and Wachovia.

And with consumers holding onto their dollars, automakers Chrysler and General Motors entered and emerged from bankruptcy, both smaller versions of their former Big Three selves.

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