Broken Bank

Eight Writers on the Meaning of the Washington Mutual Meltdown

Broken Bank

Aaron Huffman

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Aaron Huffman

Washington Mutual, the venerable Seattle-based bank (1889–?), is on the brink of being gobbled up by J.P. Morgan, Wells Fargo, or another larger institution. Its credit rating has been downgraded to "junk." And at the time of this writing, its stock, though slightly better than the all-time low of $1.50, is trading at $2.99—a tiny fraction of its worth in 2007. All of which has those of us at the bottom of the financial food chain—WaMu customers, members of tiny local credit unions, and homeowners whose status as homeowners rests on the zero-interest loans that are now destroying banks like WaMu and, potentially, the economy—a little worried. Eight Stranger writers take a look at what WaMu's meltdown means, the pros and cons of putting your money under the mattress, and whether it's finally time to panic.

Are We Fucked? An Overview

S o, is Washington Mutual fucked? Are we all? That depends on how abstract you want to be.

When you hand your money over to the bank, most of it gets loaned out to someone else. Look at your account balance. Shift the decimal place one to the left. That's about how much of your money your bank actually keeps around.

The whole banking system relies upon the assumption that everyone won't ask for all their money back at once, and that those loan investments, made with your money, will be repaid.

In theory, debt ratings guarantee this. Federal regulations only allow banks to invest your money in the highest-rated debt. Debt is rated in the same way we rate potential internet dates: The more information you have, the better sense you have of how the date will go. Similarly, the more banks know about potential borrowers, the better sense they have of whether the borrower will be able to repay the loan. If a bank has only a few scraps of information, it becomes next to impossible to know if it's making a good investment.

For this very reason, getting a mortgage loan in the past required a huge amount of information. Using all of the information, a rating agency could figure out, with a good degree of accuracy, how likely you were to pay. The better your odds of paying, the better your rating.

The problem is that during the housing bubble, the people giving out mortgages gradually stopped asking for much of this information. Instead, the rating agencies gave this debt the same good ratings as always, despite lacking the information to back those high ratings up. WaMu took our savings and bought a quarter-trillion dollars of "highly rated" debt that was anything but.

Then the housing bubble popped and some of those "top-rated" loans were no longer getting paid. Worse, it became impossible to sort out the good top-rated debt from the bad top-rated debt, because the banks collected so little information. WaMu—like many other financial organizations that invested in these "safe" investments—can only sell these mortgage-backed investments for pennies on what it paid. Our money, to an unknown extent, is gone.

What's stopping huge numbers of people from asking for their money back? We're insured as depositors, up to $100,000 per account, by the FDIC.

Ready for the trippy part? The FDIC, ultimately, is secured by the full faith and credit of the federal government. In turn, the credit of the U.S. government is secured, well, by you and me. The taxpayers. Joseph Heller could not have written it better. JONATHAN GOLOB

Good-bye to You, WaMu

F rankly, Washington Mutual, I've never been that fond of you. It was a relationship of convenience, nothing more; when Bank of America ate my old bank, Seafirst, I turned to you merely to feel like I had a choice. Your performance has ranged from adequate to poor. When I lived in San Francisco, my Washington account number had one more (or less, or something) digit than the Californian ones: a pain-in-the-ass and difficult-to-solve puzzle for you and for me. When you changed the verbiage on your ATMs to be more "friendly," you dropped precipitously in my esteem. Your ad campaigns became progressively moronic (are you saying "Whoo-hoo!" now, Washington Mutual?). And for the last couple of years, I've dreaded going to you because of that one teller. I'm sure using my name relentlessly and making unending eye contact is the product of a directive from you, but it is creepy.

So it was with fairly unmixed feelings that I went to say good-bye to you. I waited for a long time. Finally I was granted an audience with you, as represented by a slightly wild-eyed assistant manager. I told you that I would like to close my account. You asked me why. I said that I was concerned about the health of the institution. You asked me why. I said that I'd been keeping abreast of the situation in the media and that I'd been advised by two people whose financial expertise I respected to close my account. I also said that I was pressed for time. You asked me who these two people were, which I did not feel was any of your business, but I answered. You told me that that the media was acting irresponsibly and reporting things that were "just untrue," and that word-of-mouth was causing people to make "emotional decisions." I said, "This is not an emotional decision." I said that I was sorry for your predicament; I said that surely you could understand that I wanted my money in the safest possible place. You told me (at length) that my money was safe. I said that I understood what "FDIC insured" meant, and that I also understood there might be a gap when my money might be unavailable. You said that this was not true. I took your business card from the holder on your desk and began making notes on it.

This went on for a long time. I began to hate you, Washington Mutual. I said that I would like to close my account and that I was pressed for time three separate times. I said that I did not want to continue this conversation. You became increasingly agitated, and you browbeat me, intimating that I did not understand financial matters and saying that I was being "rash." I did not say, "Would you say that to a man?" But would you, Washington Mutual? You did not say it to a man I know when he closed his account the day before I did. This man was neither rash nor emotional: He was merely a man who wanted his money.

When I went across the street to Bank of America, a cashier's check at last in my hand, my new banker there said he'd gotten $1.4 million in new accounts in one day when your stock tanked a few weeks ago. He said he'd gotten at least three new accounts every day since. He waived my fees forever.

Good-bye, WaMu. You will not be missed. BETHANY JEAN CLEMENT

Stand by Your Bank

T he first bank account I ever had was at Washington Mutual.

My mom took me in, cosigned because I was of untrustworthy age, and introduced me to this concept of giving other people your extra money to keep it safe for later. Off I went, handing over bits of my allowance, birthday cash from relatives, checks from my high-school jobs.

I know now that this business of storing money probably shouldn't be about mushy sentiment. But it's hard for me not to be sentimental about Washington Mutual. The place treated me like an adult when I was a kid. It respected me—even when all I had to offer were inconsequential sums and a financial legitimacy that only existed because of my mom's guarantee.

Washington Mutual was, naturally, the place I went when I got a bit older and began to think there was something a little pathetic about needing my mom to vouch for me with the serious people of the world. In March of 1994, I opened my own WaMu checking account.

The reason I know the exact month and year is that last week, as talk of a WaMu collapse was ricocheting around the web, I walked into a local branch and asked. The teller looked a bit glum, as if my request was yet another prelude to yet another breakup.

She told me. I thanked her. And then I left.

I was just curious.

She seemed relieved.

My WaMu checking account has followed me around my entire adult life. That's sentiment speaking again, the idea that a bank account has agency, that it is something more than a money box. But that's how this account is for me. It went with me to college in New York, my WaMu debit card a little talisman from home, somehow worth the charges I began to incur for having to use the ATMs of other banks around Manhattan.

By the time I graduated, though, there were so many WaMu branches in Manhattan that I might as well have been at home. WaMu was growing up with me.

I came back to Seattle. I visited, quite often, the branch where I opened my checking account—the account I still use to this day. I dated a guy who turned out to be a WaMu teller. One day he was robbed, and the terror I felt helped me realize how much I liked him. I remember learning that WaMu gives bonuses to tellers who put an explosive dye-pack in with a robber's cash, and that the bank offers them free counseling, too. I thought that was nice.

I should probably close my WaMu account now. As a friend with good money-sense put it: "Any bank that makes me nervous is a bank I don't want to be involved with." Plus, in a way, I feel like WaMu robbed me. It used the money of my growing up to help with a growth scheme so dumb it's now destroying the entire institution—not to mention dragging down the whole American economy.

I was probably wrong to get sentimental about it in the first place, though. A bank is a bank. It's about the storage of money, not emotion. Still, fond feelings die hard. I can't get myself to withdraw just yet. ELI SANDERS

Meet the New Bosses

I n a few days, Washington Mutual will be bought by J.P. Morgan or some other larger financial institution, Morgan Stanley will merge with Wachovia, and Lloyds TSB will purchase its direct rival HBOS. Earlier this week, Bank of America bought Merrill Lynch, and Barclays Bank bought the fresh remains of Lehman Brothers. These are not small institutions being absorbed by large institutions—these are gigantic financial institutions being absorbed by even more gigantic institutions. In ordinary times, this state of affairs would have alarmed the public and the press: It's an unprecedented monopolization of the banking industry. In extraordinary times, however, these galactic mergers are greeted as good news—investors are happy, the stock market stabilizes, Americans can return to worrying about the implication of applying lipstick to a variety of farm and domesticated animals.

What good can come out of the largest savings-and-loan association in America, Washington Mutual, being gobbled up the second largest banking institution, J.P. Morgan—a corporation that just four years ago merged with another massive financial institution, Bank One Corp.? Washington Mutual is the only large bank in Seattle that survived a flurry of mergers in the 1980s. After it's gone, there is nothing left here. The main banks in Seattle, a very rich city, will have their headquarters in New York and San Francisco. This enormous concentration of wealth will have a serious impact on all areas of life, particularly our political constitution. Democracy cannot flourish in an economic environment that's conditioned on the decisions made by a handful of banks with assets in the trillions. How can the public challenge the determinations of such power? But deregulation has no other result than this kind of monopolization for the few and political and economic dispossession of the many.

Since the 1980s, the neoliberalization (deregulation, deunionization, privatization) of country after country—Mexico, Brazil, Russia—has repeatedly resulted in, on one hand, the decimation of the middle class and, on the other hand, a spectacular explosion in the number of billionaires (According to Forbes magazine, Moscow is now the "billionaire capital of the world, its 74 billionaires overtaking New York City.") Neoliberalism, the dominant economic ideology and program over the past 30 years, imagines paradise to be a market that has a deunionized workforce, minimal government control, and the privatization of all goods and services. The neoliberal agenda has impacted cities, farming, education, water, and, of course, the mortgage and finance industry, the consequence of which has been the raw transference of billions upon billions of dollars to conglomerates with trillions. It's hard to see how the democratic institutions of the U.S. and other countries will be meaningful in the world that is coming our way, a world controlled by a handful of corporations. CHARLES MUDEDE

Poverty Is the Best Defense

F orgive me, Mom, if you're reading this, but I can't help but gloat a little when I see my coworkers and friends flipping out over the current financial meltdown. As friends pull money out of Washington Mutual, I toss my bank statements into the recycling unopened. As coworkers fret that even their "safe" investments may lose them money, I hand my debit card to the QFC cashier, confident that whatever happens with the collapsing economy, I, at least, have nothing to lose.

I am, like many Americans, a debtor. My credit report would give any sane accountant an aneurysm, I have not a lick of savings, and I live from paycheck to paycheck. Toward the end of every two-week pay cycle, you'll find me eating canned soup and scrounging under the couch for bus fare. It isn't a glamorous lifestyle, but it does have one silver lining: I am largely immune to the economic ups and downs that so panic my debt-free counterparts.

Being poor is obviously no bulwark against economic collapse. I'm impacted, like everyone, by the rising price of food ($5.99 for a bag of rice?) and gas (in-city bus fares are about to top $2). And I have no cushion to fall back on—no trust fund, no investments, no cash under the mattress.

But I don't have to worry if my money is safe: I don't have any. My paychecks get deposited directly into a checking account (not, incidentally, with Washington Mutual) and spent almost immediately on bills and necessities. As for that credit-card debt: Because banks are so eager to rid their books of debt, I've received three offers in the last week to settle what I owe—at substantially reduced rates, or what the card companies call "unprecedented savings!" So while everyone else is freaking out about liquidity and deposit insurance and interest rates, I'm confident that I may be poor, but I'm at no risk for losing it all. ERICA C. BARNETT

Is Smaller Safer?

M y money is safe because it's in a credit union, right? That's what everyone says. But my Jewish roots have betrayed me: I don't know shit about money. So I called someone who does.

"Credit unions are not immune to the national problems that are out there," says Linda Jekel, director of credit unions for the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions, which regulates financial services. Credit unions are member-owned cooperatives that have historically been stabilized by conservative investments—but they are, nonetheless, small players bobbing in the economic tsunami.

Beginning around 2004, banking giants started loaning huge sums to homeowners and developers without verifying borrowers' credit. Those loans paid for much of the last decade's housing boom. At the same time, the banks were funding a parallel boom of commercial developments such as apartment buildings, hotels, and shopping malls. But now many of those borrowers can't pay the bills. Result: The banks are screwed.

Credit unions, on the other hand, historically required partial payment before granting mortgages, required borrowers to prove their incomes, and focused on safer personal loans for homes and credit cards, Jekel says. "That's why they are doing okay at this point."

But the economy may yet catch up to credit unions. As banks and businesses implode, merge, and liquefy, they will lay off employees. Some of those newly unemployed people are indebted to credit unions. As prices for gas, food, and other living expenses continue to rise, those debtors may have trouble paying the bills. "That's all going to have a ripple effect," Jekel says—which could leave credit unions without enough assets to guarantee their members' deposits.

Does this mean I may not be able to get cash from the ATM next week? Should I should run downtown now to convert my money into gold?

"The worst thing that could happen," Jekel says, "is that members lose confidence and make a run on deposits." She says that before attempting cash alchemy, people should check their bank's rating at a website, such as www.bauerfinancial.com, which assigns financial institutions between one and five stars. Washington Mutual holds a dismal two stars: "problematic." Sounds generous. But my credit union, Prevail, earns a four-star rating, meaning it is "excellent." My $80 is secure! But I have a new bookmark on my web browser, and you probably should, too. DOMINIC HOLDEN

Sorry I Killed Your Bank!

W e have one of those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad mortgages that destroyed the economy when no one was looking. It's an ARM—that's "adjustable rate mortgage"—and it allowed my gay boyfriend and me to buy a house we might not otherwise have been able to afford. My mortgage doesn't begin to "float," or become adjustable, for five more years, so... um... here's hoping this financial crisis—excuse me, "market correction"—has passed by March of 2013!

Here's one hilarious thing about our mortgage: It's interest only, which means we don't have to pay off any of the principal of the loan, just the interest on the loan. We do pay off a big part of the principal every year, of course, because we're not total idiots. But technically speaking, we could make minimum monthly mortgage payments for ever and ever and ever and never actually own the house.

Our mortgage can never get older and it can never die—creepy!

The other hilarious thing about our mortgage? It's with Washington Mutual. Gee, maybe I owe WaMu an apology, seeing as I have one of those risky mortgage doodads that sank the bank.

I've got nothing but nice things to say about Washington Mutual—or I had nothing but nice things to say until very recently. For me, Washington Mutual wasn't really a bank. It was Michelle. She was our mortgage broker and she was a lovely, indulgent, patient woman. Michelle worked on the second floor of a Washington Mutual branch at Fifth Avenue and Union Street, right across the street from a bakery. Whenever I had a question about my mortgage or wanted to drop off a check to pay down the principal or if I just needed a document for tax purposes that the bank damn well mailed me months ago but I, of course, lost, I could just pop into Michelle's office and she would take care of it.

Michelle was one of the only people in Seattle who I actually allowed to hug me.

The last time I dropped by Michelle's office—about two months ago—she was packing up. Not only would Michelle no longer be at that Washington Mutual Home Loan Center for me to drop in on, but there would no longer be a Washington Mutual Home Loan Center for me to drop in to. Her entire department had been laid off. Pfft.

I realize I had it good at Washington Mutual—it was like Mayberry, where you actually know your banker and can just pop in on 'em when you feel like it. But Michelle is the only mortgage broker I've ever had—and now I don't know where to go or what to do when I have a question about my mortgage. Having a mortgage is a big and scary grown-up responsibility, and Michelle was my security blanket. Washington Mutual's bad business practices have deprived me of her, and now I don't know what I'm going to do.

Oh, wait: I do. Michelle moved to Wells Fargo. I think I'm going with her. DAN SAVAGE

Panic Is Pointless

I refuse to panic. Largely, I refuse to panic because it will not help me. I do not have $100,000 or anything like it. And there is something undignified in believing that if I gather my piddling money into my arms and march it across the street it will be safer.

Let's say we all take our money out of Washington Mutual now, and put it into other banks. Unless we all head for halo-wearing local credit unions, most of that money is liable to land at nearby branch locations for big banks: Bank of America, Wells Fargo, big names that sound safe.

But this would give greater power to fewer banks. Isn't that why we're in this housing-loan crisis in the first place?

I also refuse to panic because I want to believe in banks. I realize this is corny and outdated, and, yes, that the days of the It's a Wonderful Life savings and loans are over. WaMu is a thrift, sort of a savings-and-loan hybrid, and it expanded its business in part by taking advantage of the real-estate market in particularly aggressive ways. "At best, they made bad decisions," a reporter who has been covering banks for 23 years told me Wednesday. (He asked to remain anonymous because his employer prefers he report the news rather than be in it, but his expertise was invaluable to me as a consumer.) "At worst, they were doing sinister stuff."

Is it even possible to make moral distinctions between banks the way Jimmy Stewart did? My reporter source said yes, it is. He added, "WaMu is not a good guy." Wells Fargo, by contrast, he says, made fewer "exotic" loans and was smart enough to sell the ones it had before the going got too bad.

So my bank is either more evil or more incompetent than average. It got a new chief executive this month. Maybe that signals change; but if it is sold, the new CEO may not matter. For now, I'm watching and waiting. And if I do break up with my bank, it won't be out of fear, but because my bank is simply not good enough. JEN GRAVES

Edited by Erica C. Barnett


Comments (24) RSS

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I grew up in Seattle, and WaMu came to my school and helped us kiddies open accounts when I was ten. I've had the account ever since. When I moved to Nevada for a brief stint, I opened a Wells Fargo account because there are no WaMus within an hour of driving. As I prepare to move back to Seattle, I have been trying to decide which account to keep... and though I am sentimental about by account like Eli Sanders, I think this article has helped me realize that it's time to make like Dan Savage.
Posted by strayfeet on September 19, 2008 at 8:49 AM · Report this
Trust is something all of us could do more with in the current state of finances as written about here in this article.

I worked for years in the system designed and managed by the banking industries,and paid into taxes and the security of morgatges and rent and travel and auto and consumer insurance.

Today I'm wondering like so many of the testimonies given, if the banking industry will honor what ever is left of my social security settlement and put that insurance back into an account that I can access it and then immediately put it back into the economy.

The old standbye, " brother can you spare a dime ? ", reminds me of thoughts that once rang hollow.
Posted by daniel on September 19, 2008 at 10:25 AM · Report this
The "wild eyed" look the bank manager gave you is likely the provider of a family with kids who knows that every dollar you pull out of troubled WaMu is bringing him one moment closer to losing his job. The exasperation in his tone is the disbelief that anyone can be so moronic as to not fully understand that everyone's's deposits are FULLY GUARANTEED up to $100,000.00. And he is likely speechless that a prominent editor of a local paper, who benefited from the notorious type of loan causing this mess, is moving his money to an out of state bank that likely denied his original application because he wasn't financially qualified! WaMu stock holders and rank and file employees are getting screwed from both ends, from the incredibly incompetent senior managers that gambled our money and lost, and now by ignorant customers. Especially some of those ignorant customers that wrote this article, for they truly revealed the lack of insight they have about these challenging times. I'm sure the 5000 local WaMu employees who may lose their jobs because of you say take your shallowly held progressive ideas and shove it!
Posted by Peter on September 19, 2008 at 10:59 AM · Report this
A good word for bad journalism.
Or was this just a series of opinions about a subject that most admitted ignorance of how banks work?
Still imbecilic.

That glum branch worker was glum because now she has to worry about her job because some people write opinion pieces suggesting a bank panic.

Everyone loves a bit of Schadenfreude and The Stranger has been no pinnacle of journalistic ethics but I find this piece depressing and irresponsible.

Maybe The Stranger should take a long, hard look at the root causes of this financial mess. The Federal Reserve, fractional banking and debt economy.

And no, I am not a right wing bible thumper nor a WaMu bank employee. I just find malicious writing that its further speeding the future unemployment of our neighbors and friends to be shameful.
Posted by HeavyHebrew on September 19, 2008 at 1:16 PM · Report this
I know this is really just nit-picky, but there are virtually no WaMu offices in Washington Mutual Tower. Have you been in there? It's mostly law offices. Walk to SAM and look up. That is where their corporate headquarters are located.
Posted by HarHar on September 19, 2008 at 2:28 PM · Report this
It's a wonderful time to be childless, asset-less and broke!
Posted by poorgirl on September 19, 2008 at 2:51 PM · Report this
Those of you who are contemplating moving your money to Bank of America should review that bank's fiscal health even more rigorously than you have reviewed Washington Mutual's. First buying Countrywide and now getting in far too deep with Lehman Bros., B of A is not in a better position financially than any other bank that finds itself on the short end of the no-documents-mortgage stick. B of A is just noisier and more ruthless in its quest for deposits. I should add that this current B of A has swallowed numerous California banks over the years, including Bank of America itself (having started out as some other bank, the name of which escapes me at the moment) and has never improved either service or stockholders' returns. This current B of A bears about as much resemblance to the real B of A, which began in San Francisco as the Bank of Italy over a hundred years ago and was justly famed for its integrity and its personalized service, as a Cost Plus "Oriental" rug bears to a genuine Ottoman silk Sarouk prayer rug.
Posted by Calpete on September 19, 2008 at 7:51 PM · Report this
The .com bust?
Posted by slade on September 19, 2008 at 10:17 PM · Report this
Gawd, it's just a bank.
Posted by calvin on September 20, 2008 at 12:15 AM · Report this
If I were a millionaire (or merely had over $100,000 to throw away), then yeah, I'd be worried and be pulling my accounts from WaMu. Otherwise, I dunno. It's not like all the banks are really all that safe either. Not in these times.
Posted by coggie on September 20, 2008 at 2:15 PM · Report this
I've had a WAMU checking account for about ten years, and for now, I am staying put. I have a line of credit linked to my checking account that has a chunk of a balance. It would be a hassle to move to another bank because I'm not in any position to pay off my LoC. So, in a way, I'm contributing to WAMU's cause as they leech money off of me monthly in the form of interest.
However, if/when WAMU is bought out, should I start getting nickeled and dimed by any more fees than they already have, I am GONE.
Posted by Madashell on September 20, 2008 at 2:20 PM · Report this
gold buried in your back yard is looking better & better all the time.

These bailouts are nothing more than addressing the crisis by devaluing the dollar. Lets see how you people with no assets to lose fare when the dollar is worth 20 cents, but your pay has not risen to compensate. Think $4/ gallon gas is bad, try $20. think $2 bus fare is steep, try $10. $5 for a bag of rice, try $25.

Google the current crisis in Zimbabwe to see your possible future. I wonder if the Canadians will be as hesitent to build a fence as we are.
Posted by Bob on September 21, 2008 at 6:49 AM · Report this
I am a bit worried,not because I have over 100,000 in the bank but because if it dose, go under, there is a pd, a long pd, mind you before you can get your say 2000 or whatever, and do you think your landlord, carloan, bill's and what not will be like, oh well your money stuck, we understand we will wait? No not likly. So yes I love my washington mutual, but I do have qustion about there banking ways now. It has me a bit worried but I will not be running to pull my money out yet.. How ever if it looks like the damn ship's going under I am not letting my money go done and waite for the diving team to go down and pull it out. I will close it, grab the money and run, if they dare ask why I will tell them really? think on it.. So to all those running around thinking what to do what to do? Keep watching and be ready.. it could get bumpy.... aka.. read the end of the bible you might see this coming!!!!! (:
Posted by DONT BE BLIND!! on September 22, 2008 at 1:28 AM · Report this
Eli Sanders you just warmed my heart. I opened my first Wamu account with my mother when i was four. I am now 21 and sitting and sitting in my bed away at school in the middle of butt-fuck nowhere michigan. The alledged heartland sucks; there are no scensters, the coffee sucks, and the people are as fat as their SUV's. Worst yet, there are no WaMu's. Nine more months and i will have my two degrees and take my skinny ass back to the native land where (hopefully) WaMu's roam.
Posted by Murphy on September 22, 2008 at 4:36 AM · Report this
I've been banking with Bank of America ever since it bought up my pre-teen banking account with Seafirst. Seafirst I actually liked. BoA I've been too lazy to leave. With direct deposits and auto-payments, my money moves for me.

Bank of America is a horrible institution though, and if I had any real conviction, I'd move my money like my partner did to some small credit union like Seattle Met or BECU.

In the long run though, the bank you leave your money with isn't going to affect the number of dollars you are able to withdraw. What's scarier - the 100,000 dollars could easily be worth absolutely nothing.

Our economy is what's scary. Invest in the Euro. Or better yet, move to Europe.
Posted by Bombastic on September 22, 2008 at 10:48 AM · Report this
So Washington Mutual was offering zero-interest loans? No wonder they're in trouble! How did I miss this? I'm a mortgage broker who placed a number of loans with WaMu; they had some pretty exotic loans available, but how did I miss out on the zero-interest loan? My clients would have loved it!

Posted by Ken Steiner on September 25, 2008 at 11:53 AM · Report this
i'm just sad that there will be no big bank left that gives a crap. wells fargo is mean and weird and wants seven bucks a month for online bill pay. bank of america? uh still bitter it's not seafirst anymore. bad relationships with us brown people. key bank? ahahahaha they barely can find seattle on a map. us bank is probably going to end up with my business as the least of some pretty hinky evils.

meh. my very first account was a washington mutual account, too. i feel like it's yet another bit of seattle getting ripped out along with archie mcphee and the sit-n-spin.
Posted by cora on September 25, 2008 at 1:27 PM · Report this
I have many Bank accounts, most with WaMU, and no intention of moving any. My paychecks auto-deposit to WaMU, and my interest-only loan gets paid.
I've not been inside a bank since BoA change my'88 Versateller acct in '07. Why spend my time banking? Why cancel accounts that I need and use to go and duplicate them and auto-features? If you don't have anything better with your time, go enjoy life:
I work to live, I don't live to work.
An old account has more credit score
value (I'm ~820 range). I prefer to buy a battery-operated car with bank money, and pay for it with my gas budget (ergo-I'll need a loan)? Whatever you call these institutions, SeaFirst or BoA,
WaMu or JPMorgan or Chase (chaste?)
as long as my banking needs get met
and don't take more of my life-time. We have many choices, choose wisely.
Posted by WagMore Bank-Less on September 26, 2008 at 12:27 PM · Report this
I find it interesting that while all the insanity was going on - it was the success of conservative policy- growing the economy instead of paying for government with appropriate taxation. Personally I have the deepest dislike for banks and their rapacious ways, but at the same time there has always been a me first consistency to their actions. To see them conned so completely is even more shocking than their deserved demise. You know their daddies and mommies warned them about this stuff.
Posted by go on September 26, 2008 at 1:03 PM · Report this
>>What's stopping huge numbers of people from asking for their money back? We're insured as depositors, up to $100,000 per account, by the FDIC.

Thankfully it doesn't matter now, but it's "per depositor", not "per account"
Posted by Tony on September 26, 2008 at 2:03 PM · Report this
The first thing I did when I moved to Seattle over nine years ago was open a savings, checking and investment account with Washington Mutual.

They've been very good to me and I've always been proud--call me sentimental-- that my bank was named after my beloved, adopted home of Washington. I'm not going anywhere.
Posted by Viv on September 27, 2008 at 9:19 PM · Report this
I belong to a credit union. They have good rates and don't trick me into decisions that will cripple me financially. I do everything online so they are just as convenient as any big bank. I have loans I can afford, bank with people I trust and my money is insured. Because they are regulated differently than banks and don't make decisions based on profit, they aren't in the same mess that a lot of other financial institutions are.
Posted by Silly Girl on September 29, 2008 at 1:36 PM · Report this
Calvin, your a moron...still think it is just a bank?
Posted by Zenguy on September 29, 2008 at 4:15 PM · Report this
I liked Washington Mutual when my teller knew me and the manager was kind and listened to my troubles but when it became WAMU with thousands of branches, my friendly teller became a machine and the manager a fear-mongering Bush-A-Like as in "I don't care about you or your family". I figured it was just a question of time when it collapsed.
Posted by just another citizen with rights too on October 2, 2008 at 3:24 PM · Report this

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