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Thursday, September 25, 2008

The End of WaMu: Collapse and Purchase in Parts

posted by on September 25 at 18:30 PM

UPDATED at 10:20p:
The New York Times has a fantastic article up on the collapse.

The Seattle Times deserves credit for getting the story right before just about anyone else.

UPDATED at 6:30p:

Washington Mutual was seized by Federal regulators. JP Morgan Chase bought up the retail bank parts of WaMu. Customers should have a “seamless transition” (for some of the reasons I speculated about below.) Washington Mutual, as a company, is no more.

This was the largest failure of a bank in US history.

Don’t panic. Your deposits—up to $100,000 per person—are insured.

It’s everywhere. I like Bloomberg better than Rupert Murdoch, so:

JPMorgan Chase & Co., the third- biggest U.S. bank by assets, agreed to acquire the deposits of Washington Mutual Inc. as the thrift was seized by regulators in the biggest bank failure in U.S. history.

JPMorgan will pay $1.9 billion, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said in a statement today. It won’t acquire liabilities including claims by equity, subordinated and senior debt holders, the FDIC said….

WaMu was the second-biggest provider of option ARMs, behind Wachovia, with $54 billion held in its portfolio in the first quarter, according to Inside Mortgage Finance. Of the $230 billion in loans secured by real estate at the end of the second quarter, $16.9 billion were subprime mortgages. WaMu, which ranked sixth among U.S. mortgage companies last year, was the 11th-biggest subprime lender in 2006, according to Inside Mortgage Finance.

Some advice:

If you have an account at WaMu, it’s wise to go online and print out your current statement. If you don’t have online access to your account, you can go to an ATM and get a “mini-statement” printout for free. You almost certainly won’t need this documentation, but it cannot hurt to have it.

And a bit of gratitude:
I’ve always had a positive experience when banking at WaMu. The tellers have been good, the ATMs generally low-fee and the locations convenient (even when I’m visiting the East coast or the Midwest.)

So, thank you to all the employees at WaMu. My heart goes out to all of you who are about to suffer because of the irresponsible few at the top.

One of the ugliest aspects of deregulation is the most irresponsible (but profitable in the short term) could outcompete the responsible for promotions. Thanks to all of you in WaMu’s management who refused to go along with this gambit and have seen your careers suffer for it.

(I’m leaving this here, as a footnote for the belligerent comments I received when speculating on the earlier conflicting reports about WaMu. Listen guys: you know I’m not a business reporter. Take my commentary on this or leave it. Lord knows there are plenty of other news outlets for you to get financial news and advice. I think my track record over the past few weeks has been one of responsible, accurate and ahead of the curve coverage.)

This purchase of WaMu by JP Morgan Chase seems anything but orderly.

WaMu put itself up for action last week. Nobody bought.

The Seattle Times and CNBC are both reporting that WaMu was just seized by the FDIC. If so, this situation is not a purchase by JP Morgan Chase, per-se. The Federal government, instead, took over WaMu and is selling off pieces to cover the massive costs of doing so.

This is a bit different than the Wall Street Journal’s reporting, which merely claims “[f]ederal regulators have been heavily involved in orchestrating the transaction.”

If WaMu was indeed seized rather than bought, the taxpayers are on the hook for WaMu’s bad debt. Being seized by the feds is the equivalent of collapsing—no different than what happened to IndyMac earlier this year.

To whit:


WaMu -> JP Morgan Chase


WaMu -> Federal Government -> Sold off in pieces.

Adding to this sense that this was a seizure rather than an orderly sale, WaMu itself seems unaware of the situation—at least per the Seattle Times.

Don’t panic. Your deposits—up to $100,000 per person—are insured.

This is the concern, as per CNBC (and me last week):

WaMu ended August with $143 billion in retail deposits — roughly triple the size of the entire Federal Deposit Insurance Corp fund that backs customer deposits.

To pay us back that $143 billion dollars in deposits—beyond tax dollars and the FDIC insurance fund—the Federal government has the assets of WaMu. What are those? Whatever cash WaMu had on hand. Us as customers (recruiting new customers costs money.) The physical banks and ATMs. And a quarter trillion dollars in mortgage-backed securities (that no investors are willing to purchase, beyond cents on a dollar.)

What appears to have happened is the feds made a quick sale to JP Morgan Chase of WaMu’s accounts and retail presences to raise up some cash to cover the $143 billion owed to us.

If these sales plus whatever remains of the FDIC funds cannot cover the $143 billion owed, paying the insurance on our deposits might require giving the FDIC taxpayer dollars. The FDIC already has the right to borrow unlimited sums from the federal Treasury.

Of course, the $143 billion, unless we depositors make a run, will not all have to be paid at once. A quick and dirty estimate is about 10% of this amount, at a minimum, is needed to be available on demand at any given time. So long as a run doesn’t occur on WaMu, the taxpayers should be ok—if left holding a quarter trillion dollars in dubious mortgage backed securities.

Your checks, direct deposits and electronic bill payments should continue to work. These are (and I’m vastly simplifying here) handled by the Federal Reserve, or another clearing agency.

The Federal Reserve and FDIC are well run, serious governmental agencies. This won’t be like dealing with FEMA.

Hopefully with this deal, the customers won’t have to sit in line and fill out paperwork with the FDIC and the accounts will just cleanly switch over to JP Morgan Chase.

RSS icon Comments


Once again you've shown your financial cluelessness. The FDIC is on the hook for $143 billion only if WAMU has $0 in assets, which clearly isn't the case, even if you write their mortgage investments way down. Stop fear-mongering.

Posted by cluelessgolob | September 25, 2008 5:45 PM

You should also read this.

But don't let me stop you from spouting off on things you know nothing about.

Posted by F | September 25, 2008 5:53 PM

@1 you leave Jonathan alone, and learn something about the difference between balances and cash flow before you pretend to know anything about what's going on yourself.
If the depositors at WaMu make a run on it, then those deposits could would become immediate liabilities, while it's assets, whatever they are worth, would not produce much significant immediate cash-flow, forcing the FDIC to borrow to cover deposits. THAT's the point.

Posted by kinaidos | September 25, 2008 6:00 PM

Kinaidos - Actually I've spent some time looking at their financials, can you say the same?

Given that the FDIC has taken over there will only be a run on the bank if people like Golob keep scaring people into thinking they're not going to get their money.

Cute the way he edits his own posts after-the-fact to address issues that people bring up and make himself appear a lot more reasonable than he is.

Posted by cluelessgolob | September 25, 2008 6:09 PM

Um. I have a day job. I'm writing this as quickly as I can.

Yes, the first versions missed some of the nuances you bring up. I also, in bold in the original post told people not to panic and their deposits are insured.

I can only write so fast, particularly when I'm reading.

God. I've just read the comments and am realizing that the worst things you can be to some people is right about their mistakes. What are you @1, @2 and @4? WaMu executives?

Thank you kinaidos.

Posted by Jonathan Golob | September 25, 2008 6:16 PM

The legal details of the transfer are murky and quite probably not full settled yet. What is important to WaMu depositors, though, is that their bank will continue to function like a bank (clearing checks, accepting deposits, paying withdrawls). They will not have to fill out some FDIC form and wait weeks for some burocrat to process it before accessing their money.

Posted by David Wright | September 25, 2008 6:19 PM

You might also have waited the 50 minutes it took for this report to appear.

Look, you're a journalist and as such it's your shtick to make people care about this kind of thing by playing up two angles: 1)it's happening to you, here and 2) it's the end of the world. I get it. It's just too bad that reality doesn't want to cooperate with that particular narrative.

When this whole financial nightmare is resolved, it's definitely going to cost you and me and the average citizen, it's just going to do so in the totally boring way of raising everyone's taxes and increasing unemployment.

Posted by F | September 25, 2008 6:29 PM

The gov't will not let retail depositors lose money covered by the FDIC. Point blank if it comes to it, we will print money to avoid that. More likely though treasury securities will be sold to cover any need amounts.

Posted by Giffy | September 25, 2008 6:31 PM

I predict downtown will be overwhelmed by drunk bankers tomorrow afternoon.

Posted by Zander | September 25, 2008 6:35 PM

@5 No offense, I mean I really love your writings on science, but this shit is important. With an audience comes a responsibility for due diligence and accuracy. There is enough misinformation, intentional or otherwise floating around, and enough people panicking, without adding further fuel to the fire.

Posted by Giffy | September 25, 2008 6:35 PM

Here's my best guess as to what's going down. JP Morgan will take on WaMu's liabilites (*buying their deposits* is how it's described which is a funny way to describe it). They will be paid by taking on some of WaMu's branches as assets.
So, JP Morgan is NOT buying WaMu.
WaMu is being seized by the FDIC, and it's assets are being parcelled out as compensation for JP Morgan and possibly others how will take over it's liabilities. As of tomorrow morning WaMu will cease to exist as anything but the name that describes the assets that the feds are spinning down into saleable goods.
MOST or at least MANY WaMu employees probably have little to worry about right now. Assets here mean going business concerns and that means employees doing their normal jobs. Longterm though it's not good news.
This is pretty close to a worst case scenario for WaMu employees I suspect, well next to giant wamu employee eating blancmange.

Posted by kinaidos | September 25, 2008 6:52 PM


Fair enough. I'm as close to a financial analyst as anyone who writes for the Stranger.

I still defend even the earliest versions of this post--covering an ongoing and messy event--as having a clear statement that deposits are insured by the FDIC. For the weeks I've written about WaMu, I've never advised people to leave the bank. I've consistently suggested:
1. People have a small cushion of cash, perhaps a little larger than usual, to cover a few days expenses.

2. Better documentation of their account than usual, printing out online statements and keeping them somewhere safe.

I did my best. There are a ton of places online and offline to read about this. I think I served my audience well, but if you have specific things you think I should've done better, email me at or comment and I'll always acknowledge and correct.

Posted by Jonathan Golob | September 25, 2008 6:59 PM

Grrr, these posts by Jonathon are so frustrating. I keep thinking "good info, wow is that fucked up, hey... wait a minute... that makes no sense..." and then I scroll back up and see his name. Grr

In particular, check out this howler:
"the Federal government has the assets of WaMu. What are those? Whatever cash WaMu had on hand. Us as customers (recruiting new customers costs money.) The physical banks and ATMs. And a quarter trillion dollars in mortgage-backed securities (that no investors are willing to purchase, beyond cents on a dollar.) "

Ouch. In making his case, he neglects to mention that WaMu has investments other than mortgage-backed securities, that there are some grades of mortgage-backed securities that are doing just fine in the market, and that WaMu owns a lot of its real estate.

Are you really this clueless, Jonathon, or just so much more into sensationalism than accuracy that you're intentionally presenting half-truths because the full truth is only "really bad" rather than "completely outrageous"?

Posted by also | September 25, 2008 7:05 PM

I'm calling WM a buy.

Posted by John Bailo | September 25, 2008 7:05 PM

This JPMorgan looks pretty cool too.

I'm glad I left my money in Wamu because now I'm part of JP of the remaining solid commercial banks. I hope I can order new checks soon.

The other thing is that if you Google WAMU and JP Morgan, you'll see that they've been discussing mergers since 2006!

Posted by John Bailo | September 25, 2008 7:19 PM

Could you do a post comparing local alternatives? Seattle Met, Boeing, Verity, Watermark...?

Posted by Keo | September 25, 2008 7:20 PM

Jonathan, here's an idea - don't write about things you don't understand.

Who cares if you're the best qualified at The Stranger. I think we all know that's not saying much.

Telling people to print their account statements is the funniest thing I read all day.

Anyone reading SLOG for financial advice gets what they deserve anyway. But thanks for the chuckles.. this is truly a classic.

Posted by ROFL | September 25, 2008 7:22 PM

Wow, my mortgage is through WaMu. I've been faithfully making payments for over 10 years - I wonder what this means for people like me?

Posted by Mom | September 25, 2008 7:24 PM

gee I thought WaMu had solid Northwest virtue backing them up, unlike those east coast monsters JP Morgan or Chase or that horrible Californian B of A.

Who's next to fail, Bartell's?


The Bon Marche???????

Posted by PC | September 25, 2008 7:25 PM

Mom @18, nothing changes. You still make your payments to WaMu, to the normal address, until you get a letter from JPM a year from now that tells you to make your checks out to JPM with a new address. Systems won't be merged until "late 2010".

Posted by wtf | September 25, 2008 7:27 PM

good thing we couldn't short WaMu into the ground and at least hedge our risk. the stock market isn't a disease, it's a symptomatic indicator.

Is anyone really going to tell me anything different? The importance of stock price doesn't mean much outside of the sentiment that investors have. Investors react to information they receive. Credit rating doesn't hinge on stock price - they have a corellation but aren't indicative of what the other one will be. To presume the opposite would lead to ridiculous conclusions that aren't supported by evidence. It also presumes that any information made public wouldn't thusly be factored into the stock anyway, nor be affirmed by the rating agencies.

and for the most part, rating agencies report the past findings and thusly would be out of date of current stock prices. it's easy to see how a specious casual relationship can be drawn between the two though; "The stock went down and so did the rating, therefore the rating is influence by stock price, and not some third factor". Keep in mind that there have been instances where credit ratings were wrong,

Is there the ability to game the system? Sure; In theory you could purchase tons of CDS which make stock investors nervous. Then you short as much of the stock as possible. But the biggest risk to this scheme is what if you pick a company that isn't in risk of default? Well then you're fucked up the ass holding worthless swaps, getting short squeezed, and if you're really risky, you did this leveraged. The main point here is that one scheming in this manor won't be effective unless there is some actual basis on which to start the scheme.

And there are some inherent problems with using CDSs as a basis for company health too. They are mostly illiquid obligations. There is a huge market for them that often outsizes the debt they are derivatives of.

The idea that I just want to put to rest is that stock prices, CDS spreads and credit ratings don't shift without there being a reason for it; either tangible information or the risk of uncertainty.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | September 25, 2008 7:30 PM

The cable news is saying the bailout deal is being held up by the conservative house republicans. They had a big showdown in a meeting at the White House and basically said they aren't going for the big Paulson plan. Meanwhile over on Fox News, Dick Morris was saying this is McCain's big play -- he's going to make the Democrats cave in the way they always do and then go to the debate on Friday or whenever and say "I stopped it from being a $700B tax hike" whatever.

Standing up to Obama, seizing the issue etc.

This is because there is massive grass roots resistance to the "Wall St. bailout."

Note: this is informative only. I support the Obama position on this, though I'd like to hear him talk more about that equity stake.

Jost thought I would mention this as it appears to be shaping up into McCain's big play for a game changer.

(Note, too, that the Dems don't need the GOP votes to pass the plan they got accord on with the pres., but as usual, they can be counted on to be too wussy in their frantic desire for political cover and demanding that they get 100 Republicans in the house to go along. Damn them. They should just pass the plan they want and take the heat or the credit. Dick Morris' point was that McCain/GOP House members will force the Dems to water it down or change it and thus have McCain emerge as the "leader" on this issue...whether this will happen or work I don't know but clearly it's not just some wild McCain frantic fit...there's a strategy going on.....).

Yr. most humble correspondent,

Posted by PC | September 25, 2008 7:31 PM

@12 Its cool. Hell I'm an amateur economist too. You are one of the better and most responsive slog posters around.

Posted by Giffy | September 25, 2008 7:42 PM

And you know what really pisses me off about this scapegoating of shorting is that A. It created a false bounce at the end of last week due to people covering B. people bought on this false bounce and now lost their entire balance on it.

if shorts were allowed to do their job, then wamu and other financials would have never bounced back. owners of the stock could have demanded ridiculous premiums to borrow their shares for shorting and at least hedged the risk of wipeout.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | September 25, 2008 7:48 PM

JG, most of us are just reg'lar folks who want to know how our checking and savings accounts are affected and I think you did a great job of explaining that. Most of us don't give a rat's ass about the mix of investments, assets, and liabilities Washington Mutual may have had. We just wanted to know what's going on with our folding money. Thank you for dumbing it down in a clear manner. For those who are looking for a professional economist's assessment of things and are disappointed they aren't getting that, why are you looking here?

Posted by Smade | September 25, 2008 7:57 PM

Ok asshats, you all need to settle down.

@1 - assets such as ...Preferred shares in Freddie and Fannie? I know, all those HELOC's & refi's on the books. The rule of survival right now in banking is simple - capital is king. WaMu can claim assets out their ass, but it doesn't matter because no one knows what the fuck those assets are worth.

The basic functions of a commercial bank are to: take deposits, lend out money (responsibly) based on those deposits, manage the interest spread so everyone makes money and appease shareholders. There are other ways to acquire capital (brokered deposits, etc.), but at the end of the day you have to be able to produce customer's deposits ON DEMAND. WaMu can't do that right now, a direct result of their decision to go whole hog into subprime. Long Beach Mortgage - look it up and seriously; if you know so much about the world of high finance what the fuck are you doing here? Golob didn't present you his goddamn econ thesis - it's a post on a blog.

Posted by Chris | September 25, 2008 8:02 PM


Posted by MAN | September 25, 2008 8:07 PM

Let me say straight out that Jonathon is smart and, for the most part, well-informed. And in all of his financial writings he's gotten everything mostly (~90%) correct. So he deserves serious credit for that.

What I've objected to is the way that he jumps to the most catastrophic possible outcome each and every time. And this one was the most egregious because if he had waited just one hour he would have found out that his doomsaying was all for naught.

The situation is shitty and frightening enough without jumping to conclusions. Why not just report that? You do your self a serious disservice by always predicting the worst and being proven wrong. Chicken little, anyone?

Posted by Ff | September 25, 2008 8:12 PM

Screw the bailout. What's so bad about a recession, assuming we've got Obama in the whitehouse. Recessions are only bad if you've got plutocrats in power. If you don't know what a plutocrat is, it's a pale aging flip-flopping good for nothing has-been who has learned to lie with those who butter his bread, and if you've watched Last Tango in Paris, you know exactly what that can mean. (I apologize to the three of you who are know imagining an aging Brando sodomizing Palin's aged running mate. Hey but at least they will always have Paris.)

Posted by kinaidos | September 25, 2008 8:15 PM

Can anyone actually confirm that the FDIC "makes you fill out forms"? Because my understanding is that isn't what happens at all, and yet people like Golob keep repeating lines like this to scare people.

Not that it matters in this case since it's owned by Chase, but a little fact-checking maybe?

Posted by factchecking | September 25, 2008 8:18 PM

@30 - don't worry about deposits right now - the last thing JPM or their subsidiariaries are going to do is to spook their depositors. Business as usual for little guys for the indefinite future.

Here's a video bye-bye to WaMu:

It's a depression era fiddle tune from Kentucky. It was a classic performed by Andy Palmer of Jimmie Johnson's String Band. But somehow this pathetic geeky version seems more appropriate.

Anyone remember SeaFirst? Seattle seems to have a knack for accumulating towers named after busted banks.

Posted by kinaidos | September 25, 2008 8:24 PM

Note the OTS (Office of Thrift Supervision)'s note on the seizure -

"Pressure on WaMu intensified in the last three months as market conditions worsened. An outflow of deposits began on September 15, 2008, totaling $16.7 billion."

In other words, there was a run on the bank, helped along by people like Golob making people think they might lose their money (by repeatedly emphasizing how much the FDIC had and how much WAMU had in deposits, as the FDIC wouldn't pay out 100%) and telling people that if the bank was seized they would have to fill out forms in order to get their money back.

Granted, Stranger readers in total probably had $6,321.34 in WAMU deposits, but it didn't help.

Posted by factchecking | September 25, 2008 8:31 PM

yes the local WaMU angle is interesting but back to the overall finance sector crisis:

"Democrats could decide to go ahead with their plan without Republican support. While this would ensure passage, it would essentially saddle Democrats with responsibility for a bailout package that has stirred up strong resistance among both Democrat and Republican voters -- with elections just weeks away.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, earlier in the week said she wouldn't push the bill without Republican support."

Wow, what great party leaders we have. They will take action, if they get the other party to agree to it.

Seems like a time for new leadership. where is our Democratic leadership? Any Democratic leaders out there, or do they all think they should only do what they get their GOPmaster Masters and Lords to agree to?

Any Democratic leader out there......? Calling all leaders.......

Posted by PC | September 25, 2008 8:37 PM

Ironic that it's the Democrats teaming up with the Bush WH in favor of a plan, with the House Republicans opposing their President's plan.

PC, the point is that this is going to cost the taxpayers hugely and if the Democrats pass it without the Republicans they'll use it against the Democrats for the next 20 years. And effectively too, given the mood of the country against the bail-out.

Posted by bob | September 25, 2008 8:40 PM

I am a little guy who knows next to nothing about the financial world and i chose to keep my wamu account based in part by golob's reporting. He didn't freak me out, man.

Posted by tictoc | September 25, 2008 9:16 PM

Since the top 10% pay about 80% of income tax doesn't that mean that those that profitted the most from the market will pay the bulk of this?

We could have even a higher progressive tax and of course the rich make too much but the whining that the tax payers will be picking up the bill just doesn't cut it.

Posted by McG | September 25, 2008 9:23 PM

I wonder if there will be any criminal investigation into Kerry Killinger. He's on the Safeco board, too.

Posted by Mom | September 25, 2008 9:32 PM

@19 -- B of A is NOT a Californian bank, any more than WaMu is/was. The original B of A (a San Francisco bank, yes; founded as the Bank of Italy) was bought by Nations Bank of Charlotte, NC, who promised that they would maintain the same respect for their customers, commercial integrity, and community service standards as B of A always had -- and then promptly trashed their empty promises, re-branded the combined banks, and bullied their way through the Western half of the country, which was all they wanted: a foothold in the West. What is now known as Bank of America bears no resemblance whatsoever to the Bank of America that Nations Bank bought and destroyed.

Posted by Calpete | September 25, 2008 9:32 PM

@19, BAC hasn't had a California HQ since 1998. Your a decade behind, you dipstick.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | September 25, 2008 9:35 PM


Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | September 25, 2008 9:36 PM

Why do posters keep responding to the PC trollbot? Boredom?

@20, nothing in any of the WaMu coverage mentions who exactly takes over the mortgages -- it doesn't seem to be JP Morgan Chase, though...

Posted by um | September 25, 2008 9:44 PM

tictoc @ 35 - same here, no panic. I left my money in there partly based on Golob's explanation. I can't help but think the angry people in this thread are interested parties who are here to perform spin and damage control for their bosses.

Posted by Smade | September 25, 2008 10:06 PM

From the NYT, which has a fantastic article up right now:

Federal regulators had been trying to broker a deal for Washington Mutual because a takeover by the F.D.I.C. would have dealt a crushing blow to the federal government’s deposit insurance fund. The fund, which stood at $45.2 billion at the end of June, has been severely depleted after suffering a loss from the sudden collapse of IndyMac Bank. Analysts say that a failure of Washington Mutual would have cost the fund as much as $30 billion or more.

That's why I kept bringing up the concerns (not just my concerns) about what a WaMu implosion would mean for the FDIC.

And @32.
Yes, I started writing about WaMu's troubles around September 15th... when depositors starting pulling out money... because WaMu's bonds were steadily rated down to junk at that point. Respectfully, the bond rating agencies probably have more influence than I in creating a "run."

Ff @ 28: Thank you. That is a fair critique. It was the conflicting reporting--and that WaMu itself didn't know of the situation--that got me a bit spooked around 5:30p.

Posted by Jonathan Golob | September 25, 2008 10:19 PM

OK, let's tell some TRUTH.

1. Yes, your individual deposit (checking, savings, CDs, NOT BONDS, NOT STOCKS) is safe for $100,000 per person (unmarried) at WaMu.

2. Your IRA (that part in checking, savings, CDs, NOT BONDS, NOT STOCKS) is safe for $250,000 per person (unmarried) at WaMu.

3. If married, you only get a second coverage if it is IN YOUR NAME ONLY. As in both accounts are in SEPARATE and NOT JOINED names.

4. Just because your money is safe doesn't mean you can access it.

5. If you have automatic deposit and NO MORTGAGE or LOANS that require direct deposit, you would be smart to divert your second paycheck to another financial institution - PREFERABLY A LOCAL CREDIT UNION.


Oh, and don't stop paying your loans or mortgages or bad things WILL HAPPEN.

Posted by Will in Seattle | September 25, 2008 10:22 PM

Alas, poor WAMU.

I didn't take my money out and contribute to the big ol' bank run, I just started putting new money into my new BECU account (born on date: 9-15).

Posted by brent | September 25, 2008 11:01 PM

Amazing, I never thought I'd live to see 1929.

Posted by Sargon Bighorn | September 25, 2008 11:15 PM

Golob--keep all these posts coming (and Dear Science!). You have become one of my favorites on Slog and in the Stranger. Thanks for being willing to distill complex, layered, changing situations into thought-out talking points. V. helpful for those of us that want to be engaged but may be need help getting caught up.

Posted by brinsonian | September 25, 2008 11:21 PM

Wow..I really shouldn't have bought the stock last month thinking it was all an overreaction.

Guess its PBR all weekend for me...

Posted by JesseJB | September 25, 2008 11:44 PM

Smart move, brent.

Posted by Will in Seattle | September 25, 2008 11:54 PM

Perhaps other comments have already noted this, but one of the write-ups tonight point out a painful reality in this end-game.

It was barely six months ago, if that, when Chase offered $8 per share for WaMu.

But instead of taking the offer from Chase, then-CEO Killinger turned it down in favor of a private-equity capital infusion. Many speculate that Killinger chose this route out of pride and a chance to preserve his job.

Now what?

1) Killinger was run out of the bank three weeks ago with a $20+ million golden parachute.

2) The private equity investors lose all $7 billion of their investment

3) and, oh yeah, those stocks that so many employees own, which could have been worth $8, are now worthless. Literally worthless.

The coming weeks will bring stories of employees whose life savings have evaporated. Shades of Enron and other tales of brazen greed and pride.

Posted by oneway | September 26, 2008 12:46 AM

Christ, it's lord of the bloody flies.

Jonathan, for what it's worth, I think your reporting has been and remains superlative in every meaningful respect.

Posted by Judah | September 26, 2008 1:21 AM

Will @44, your "TRUTH" is seriously lacking. THERE IS NO INTERRUPTION TO DAY TO DAY OPERATIONS. If you had 20,000,000 in your WaMu savings yesterday, you still have 20,000,000 in your WaMu savings today, only now it's backed by WaMu AND JP Morgan capital. There is NO interruption to your accounts, your funds are just as liquid as they were yesterday (although you're now more protected from any run on the WaMu bank). While your statements (and Golob's) about FDIC insurance are factual, it has NO relevance to the action the FDIC took yesterday.

Posted by Fucking Idiots | September 26, 2008 3:08 AM

Thanks for your posts on this, Jonathan. The only people to blame for Wamu's demise are the stupid, stupid greedy execs who wanted to make a bunch of money off mortgages. All this "Jonathan (and other journalists) caused a panic" is just bullshit. Wamu has been steadily downgraded for awhile; it just took some time before it was on the local TV news, which probably caused more panic than a few Slog posts.

I didn't close my account but did open a new one (at B of A for now) just in case. Now I realize just how spoiled I was at Wamu - I hope my friendly teller doesn't get laid off!

I would also like to second the call for a followup article looking at local credit unions - Seattle Metropolitan looks interesting.

Posted by asteria | September 26, 2008 3:11 AM

@41 who claims the "coverage" doesn't identify who assumes WaMu mortgages, 3 hours before you posted your bullshit JPM had a conference call that should have cleared up any uncertainty you had in understanding what "assets" are. JPM is indeed the owner of all the mortgages, toxic or not, that WaMu holds. They estimate losses from these mortgages to be between 30b and 54b. Actually I'd encourage everyone to take a look at the investor presentation, particularly slide 16 which gives a good idea for how much more you can expect the real estate market to fall, from people smarter than Paulson or Bernanke ( OR just go to

Posted by One more smackdown of untruth | September 26, 2008 3:17 AM

@53, all your friendly bank employees are safe and have a job for the foreseeable future, especially in WA, CA, GA, and FL (this was the main reason Chase wanted WaMu - they have no presence in these lucrative markets). If they're in TX, IL or NY some branches may eventually be shut down, although not immediately. All the corporate operations in Seattle are safe for a few months anyhow, until Chase gets a handle on who is redundant (that's me).

Posted by your teller is safe | September 26, 2008 3:22 AM

@55, I'm glad they'll keep their jobs for awhile, although it sucks that a lot of people lost their retirement. It's definitely a shitty time to be employed in the financial sector and I wish you luck.

Damn, JPMorgan got a deal - I'm guessing they must be counting on getting some of that bailout to take care of the "toxic" assets?

Also, somewhat off-topic - is the tanking of the economy just a postponed reaction to 9/11? I heard a BBC reporter frame the situation as such but I haven't heard people in the US media say that.

Posted by asteria | September 26, 2008 3:47 AM

Well, there went any point in the bailout. Let's do the numbers: $700 billion bailout. Failure of bank with $250 billion in CDOs. Now I can't support this bailout at all.

Posted by Gitai | September 26, 2008 4:09 AM

I feel bad for the regular joes who took a hit on their WaMu 401k's, but Enron is a lesson none of us should forget -- don't put all your 401k in your company stock unless you won't be needing it.

JP Morgan did get a deal, but they also mentioned that they are expecting some relief from the TARP bailout (it didn't sound like they expected to participate directly, but they did foresee some upwards pressure on home prices as a result of the plan), which looks to be in limbo at the moment, so they may yet feel a bit of hurt from this decision.

The idea that the economy is tanking due to a postponed reaction to 9/11 sounds more to me like some scheme to drum up support for continuing the war on terror than reality...

Posted by enron | September 26, 2008 5:04 AM

@58 - I think the connection to 9/11 was that the economy slowed down then, so supposedly all this credit was loosened to encourage people to spend more. Then the increase in the deficit to pay for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq added to make the US economy shakier, from what I remember. I think the BBC report was implying that Bush's administration had made shitty decisions about the economy, and wasn't about the war on terror so much.

I think this is one of the few times it feels better to be broke. Less stress & I don't have to watch my money/home disappear.

Posted by asteria | September 26, 2008 5:33 AM

@56 This economic meltdown has nothing to do with a delayed reaction to 9/11 except for one thing: it comes on the same watch as -- drum roll please -- George Double-Fucking-Ewe Bush

What this meltdown is really all about is the U.S. becoming drunk on its own sense of superiority -- and we have a president who has done nothing but fan the flames.

You don't need to have a Ph. D. in economics to know:

* When the savings rate of U.S. consumers is NEGATIVE, it means we're consuming more than we produce
* When people tap into home equity loans on the basis of property values going up 10%+ per year just to sustain their consumption, it's a pyramid scheme that's bound to collapse
* And then, you have a president whose answer for every problem is a tax cut
* And further, in a time of national crisis -- 9/11 -- the presidents call to the nation is what? Sacrifice? Save? "War bonds"? Nope. His message: Go shopping! Remember that? WTF?!

Most people agree the 2002 recession was made worse by the psychological response to 9/11. But this crisis is based on a lack of leadership and sense of economic invincibility.

Posted by oneway | September 26, 2008 6:56 AM

Still not seeing answer on who currently owns my two month old 30 year fixed WaMu mortgage...

No mention of mortgages here:

Do I make the next check out to Bernanke?

Posted by yikes | September 26, 2008 7:50 AM

I bought WAmu bonds in August 08 ad they were maturing in Jan, 09. Does anybody know if Bonds are safe? Should I try to sell them right now?

Posted by WAmu bonds | September 26, 2008 8:01 AM

@62, they're worthless. Sorry.

@61, nothing has changed. WaMu, and thus JP Morgan, still owns your mortgage. Same as ever. You may eventually be given a new address to send them to, but for now make them out to the same company you always have.

Posted by 61 and 62 answers | September 26, 2008 8:07 AM

As more of an explanation, the holding company who was going to pay your bonds back has been eviscerated. They will go to bankruptcy court and bondholders and shareholders will try to get thier money, but they don't have any assets to give (Chase bought them all from the Fed). So yes, sell them, unless you somehow think you'll get something from the court.

Posted by ... | September 26, 2008 8:10 AM

@62, don't buy or sell anything based on advice given you by some anonymous commenter on SLOG - depending on how much you have invested, get some advice from someone who knows how all this works, and wait to see how WaMu ends up being parceled out.

Posted by Patti | September 26, 2008 8:22 AM

"Mr. Fishman (the new company's chief executive), who has been on the job for less than three weeks, is eligible for $11.6 million in cash severance and will get to keep his $7.5 million signing bonus..."


Posted by Banna | September 26, 2008 8:27 AM

@31 - Last night at Elliott Bay Bookstore the two guys who wrote "Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes" said that during their cross-country book tour the last two weeks they've felt like Nero fiddling while Rome burns.

Posted by Amelia | September 26, 2008 9:02 AM

Branch banking employees at WaMu are not only safe for now, but may well retain their jobs once JP Morgan takes over as they want a presence on the West Coast.

The front office employees at WaMu Center... well, if they weren't polishing their resumes and querying for interviews 1-2 months ago, they absolutely need to start now.

Posted by Gomez | September 26, 2008 9:40 AM

66. Feel disgusted now? How's this: Alan Fishman and Kerry Killinger are good friends, and that's why he agreed to come here and keep the seat warm.

Rich white men really do stick together.

Posted by Gomez | September 26, 2008 9:43 AM

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