Known as the "The Sheriff of Wall Street" when he was New York's attorney general, Eliot Spitzer aimed his fire at some of America's largest financial institutions and their most powerful executives in the country.
"At the height of his power, he was the one-man wrecking crew," says Alex Gibney, director of the new documentary Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer. "He took the job of attorney general, which very often would go after crooked car dealers, and turned it into a national phenomenon; somebody who was trying to legislate."
Spitzer's roster of business targets included Richard Grasso, onetime head of the New York Stock Exchange; Ken Langone, once an NYSE director; and Hank Greenberg, CEO of AIG.
Eliot Spitzer made a lot of enemies.
E-V-I-L On His Forehead
"To say those guys are angry doesn't do the word 'angry' justice. When they hear his name you can almost see smoke come out of their ears," Gibney tells NPR's Guy Raz.
Then-New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer leaves the podium with his wife Silda Wall shortly before he left the governor's mansion in disgrace.
Shannon Stapleton/Courtesy Magnolia Pictures
In the film, former NYSE director Langone recalls what people thought of Spitzer. "He remembers a pal of his coming out of a meeting with Spitzer and he said he had the phrase E-V-I-L emblazoned on his forehead," Gibney says.
The filmmaker thinks Spitzer underestimated the power of his enemies. "He had no friends," Gibney says. "His style was so combative."
Still, Spitzer was a rising star in the Democratic Party. He was elected governor in 2006, and many pols thought he was ultimately headed to the White House.
The Emperor's New Clothes
But it all fell apart in 2008, with the revelations that Spitzer frequented a high-priced prostitution service called The Emperor's Club.
Gibney has mixed emotions about his main character and even thinks Spitzer, now co-host of CNN's new news show Parker Spitzer, might have a political resurrection.
"I think that because Eliot Spitzer is so smart, and so good at understanding the political economy, and so good at expressing it, that there will be a need for him," Gibney says.
"But he has one big problem: He has to convince people to trust him again."