The subprime meltdown that started to seep like acid through the economy last spring erupted into a full-blown global affliction in September and has dominated all discourse and commerce ever since. So it is no surprise that the worldwide financial crisis is top of mind as we present our 2009 list of the 100 Most Influential People in Finance. Treasury & Risk's pick of the first among equals (the rest are in no particular order) this year is:

SHEILA BAIR, CHAIRMAN, U.S. FEDERAL DEPOSIT INSURANCE CORP. (FDIC) Bair was one of the first high-ranking government officials to sound the alarm about the subprime crisis, back in October of 2007. She has also been one of the most aggressive advocates for mortgage relief.

At the height of the crisis last October, when Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke and New York Fed president Timothy Geithner closed ranks to support the Bush administration's $700 trillion bailout plan, Bair, 55, a Kansas Republican appointed by President Bush in 2006, was an outspoken critic of the administration's strategy of addressing the problem at the level of financial institutions, rather than borrowers. Although the $24.4 billion plan she advocated to prevent 1.5 million foreclosures was not supported by the Bush White House or Treasury, it was essentially adopted by the Obama administration and became public policy.

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