The 2008 financial credit crisis led to the notable collapse of several banks, notably including the bankruptcy of large investment bank Lehman Brothers and the hurried sale of Merrill Lynch and the much smaller Bear Stearns to banks which effectively rescued them from bankruptcy. The entire financial services industry, including numerous investment banks, was rescued by government loans through the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Surviving U.S. investment banks such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley converted to traditional bank holding companies to accept TARP relief. Similar situations occurred across the globe with countries rescuing their banking industry. Initially, banks received part of a $700 billion TARP intended to stabilize the economy and thaw the frozen credit markets. Eventually, taxpayer assistance to banks reached nearly $13 trillion, most without much scrutiny, lending did not increase and credit markets remained frozen.
The crisis led to questioning of the business model of the investment bank without the regulation imposed on it by Glass-Steagall.[neutrality is disputed] Once Robert Rubin, a former co-chairman of Goldman Sachs, became part of the Clinton administration and deregulated banks, the previous conservatism of underwriting established companies and seeking long-term gains was replaced by lower standards and short-term profit. Formerly, the guidelines said that in order to take a company public, it had to be in business for a minimum of five years and it had to show profitability for three consecutive years. After deregulation, those standards were gone, but small investors did not grasp the full impact of the change.
A number of former Goldman-Sachs top executives, such as Henry Paulson and Ed Liddy were in high-level positions in government and oversaw the controversial taxpayer-funded bank bailout. The TARP Oversight Report released by the Congressional Oversight Panel found that the bailout tended to encourage risky behavior and "corrupt[ed] the fundamental tenets of a market economy".
Under threat of a subpoena, Goldman Sachs revealed that it received $12.9 billion in taxpayer aid, $4.3 billion of which was then paid out to 32 entities, including many overseas banks, hedge funds and pensions. The same year it received $10 billion in aid from the government, it also paid out multi-million dollar bonuses; the total paid in bonuses was $4.82 billion. Similarly, Morgan Stanley received $10 billion in TARP funds and paid out $4.475 billion in bonuses.
The investment banking industry, and many individual investment banks, have come under criticism for a variety of reasons, including perceived conflicts of interest, overly large pay packages, cartel-like or oligopolic behavior, taking both sides in transactions, and more. Investment banking has also been criticised for its opacity.
Investment banking is often criticized for the enormous pay packages awarded to those who work in the industry. According to Bloomberg Wall Street's five biggest firms paid over $3 billion to their executives from 2003 to 2008, "while they presided over the packaging and sale of loans that helped bring down the investment-banking system." 
The highly generous pay packages include $172 million for Merrill Lynch & Co. CEO Stanley O'Neal from 2003 to 2007, before it was bought by Bank of America in 2008, and $161 million for Bear Stearns Co.'s James Cayne before the bank collapsed and was sold to JPMorgan Chase & Co. in June 2008.
Such pay arrangements have attracted the ire of Democrats and Republicans in the United States Congress, who demanded limits on executive pay in 2008 when the U.S. government was bailing out the industry with a $700 billion financial rescue package.
Writing in the Global Association of Risk Professionals, Aaron Brown, a vice president at Morgan Stanley, says "By any standard of human fairness, of course, investment bankers make obscene amounts of money."