Meredith Whitney, the doomsday prophet of New Yorkbased investment bank Oppenheimer & Co., built a loyal following with her uncannily accurate predictions that bank stocks would fall through a Ring of Fire, as her seminal November 2007 report was entitled. On February 18, the 39-year-old resigned from Oppenheimer. The next day she signed a lease on new offices for her own independent research firm, Meredith Whitney Advisory Group, in midtown Manhattan. Her motive? Be her own boss, expand her research beyond publicly listed financial stocks, monetize her reputation while its still at a premium and earn a lot more money by getting paid directly rather than through a cut of trading commissions. I didnt want to be beholden to any institution for what I could be paid in terms of what I bring into the firm, she says.