In an era in which losers are universal and making a profit seems somehow shady, Paulson is the most conspicuous of Wall Street's winners. Paulson & Co.'s funds (with an estimated $36 billion under management and growing by the day) were up a staggering $15 billion as the markets teetered in 2007; one fund gained 590 percent, another 353 percent.
All this reportedly garnered him a personal payday of $3.7 billion, among the biggest in history. In 2008, his funds didn't climb nearly as much but were still successful enough to put him at the very top of his profession. By scoring returns of this magnitude, Paulson has dwarfed the success of George Soros, whose currency trades in the 1990s made him so much money that he has spent much of the rest of his career atoning for them.