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The Lost Bank: The Story of Washington Mutual-The Biggest Bank Failure in American History

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  488 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews
During the most dizzying days of the financial crisis, Washington Mutual, a bank with hundreds of billions of dollars in its coffers, suffered a crippling bank run. The story of its final, brutal collapse in the autumn of 2008, and its controversial sale to JPMorgan Chase, is an astonishing account of how one bank lost itself to greed and mismanagement, and how the entire ...more
ebook, 400 pages
Published June 12th 2012 by Simon Schuster
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Jun 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Being a ten year veteran of WaMu and having spoken with many people in many different parts of the bank since it's failure, having followed much of what has been written about the events and my own experiences, I have to say that this book tracks very closely with what I was able to piece together as to the eventual failure of WaMu. In this, it appears that it is very reliable and accurate with only very minor nuances that maybe were not fully fleshed out or understood. Given my knowledge of the ...more
Benjamin Barton
Mrs. Grind was originally on the right track with her research back in the ealy days of the WAMU saga but somewhere along the way, she forgot to include all the 'juicy' bits of the story, i.e. corporate espionage and corrupt collusion between Jamie Dimon and Sheila Bair leading up to the takedown of WAMU by the FDIC and subsequent overnight firesale single bidder auction of WAMU assets to JPM for fractions of a penny on the dollar. Washington Mutual was a solivent bank at the time it was taken d ...more
Nov 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tragic tale, particularly when you knew the players. Great insight to what was going on behind the scenes in Washington, but so sad see all the components that led to the dominos falling and the downfall of a great company.....
Dec 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is not for everyone, but was extremely interesting to me because for eight years I worked for one of Washington Mutual's subsidiaries. The decision of WaMu to sell off all ancillary businesses (I changed jobs, following the sold-off subsidiary under new ownership) was prelude to the giant series of missteps resulting in WaMu being the largest bank EVER to fail.

The book is a well-written narrative of the gradual shift of priorities of a highly regarded bank, and the discomfort with whic
Chris Ramirez
Dec 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good book. I always love to hear the inside stories of these colossal business failures. After reading the book it seems pretty obvious to me that there is an east coast bias when it comes to banking. You can't help but feel like Paulson was taking care of his buddies at AIG, Citi, and Meryl but let WAMU eat it. I hate when the government gets to pick the winners and the losers. Either let them all fail or bail them all out. What it really proves to me is that any institution could fail and the ...more
By Antony Currie

All financial institutions - not just those deemed too big to fail - need strong regulatory oversight. That is one lesson of Kirsten Grind’s new book about the demise of Washington Mutual, “The Lost Bank.” Grind, who covered the bank for Seattle’s Puget Sound Business Journal before moving to the Wall Street Journal, offers decent coverage of the bank’s demise in September 2008. But her incredibly well-researched account of how the bank got there is more captivating.

The story be
Mar 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such an interesting look at WaMu's bank failure - easy to read, yet informative.
Jul 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It’s hard not to conclude that Washington Mutual was a sacrificial lamb to help the Bush Administration pass TARP, the $700 billion fund that gifted money to favored financial institutions. Granted, WAMU probably deserved to fail based on the horrible lending strategies of long time CEO Kerry Killinger. Killinger took over WAMU and led it on a rapid expansion program making it one of the largest retail banks in the country. But, at some point in the history of this Seattle institution, Killinger ...more
Jan 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is not for everyone. But if you're at all interested in learning more about the 2008 financial crisis, or enjoy stories about the rise and fall of organizations, or just have a fading memory of WaMu and wondered whatever happened to those guys...then give this one a shot.

For those of us in California, many of us remember Washington Mutual branches opening up seemingly everywhere not too long ago...okay maybe it was a long time ago...(remember free checking accounts...that was WaMu!). B
Anita Edwards
Interesting but not a page-turner. A fairly well writen story of a local icon which unlike Starbucks, Amazon and Microsoft,failed through growth. Lots of facts I didn't know and a view into Washington (DC)regulatory politics we don't often see on the Left coast, but not really new ground. We've heard this story too many times before--fair-haired darling of Wall Street starts to believe his own press and is forced to prop up earnings by taking bigger & bigger risks. That said, it is a compete ...more
Oct 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finance
I was on the fence about the rating for this book. It has two shortcomings in my opinion. One is that it suffers from a regional bias. To be fair, it is unlikely any other journalist could have covered WaMu's story in such depth. The other problem I had with it was the lack of any mention of the bank's auditors. Where were the auditors while WaMu was selling out its shareholders? Perhaps the author did not consider it relevant but American shareholder's should. I for one plan to consider the aud ...more
Apr 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wtfiswrongwithus
Holy crap, the Great Recession of 2008 and all of the failed mortgages and bank bailouts was just a messed up situation. I don't fully understand it, but Grind's book certainly helped explain what happened, at least what happened to Washington Mutual.

This is a really good, thorough look at the WaMu crisis and how they got there. To me, the most heart-wrenching sentence (Not the most heart-wrenching aspect of the overall story; people losing all their money and their retirement funds is WAY sadd
Jan 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
THE LOST BANK tells the story of biggest bank failure in this country's history and it tells it well. It compliments TOO BIG TO FAIL. In TOO BIG, that book tells the story of the flashy investment bankers of Wall Street as they fight for their financial lives, and it features dramatic story lines and outsized egos. In THE LOST BANK, it's the story of Main Street, of homeowners and mortgages and local branches where people put their savings. This book presents a scenario that the housing bubble w ...more
May 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"'Business got casual when dress got casual.'" (quoting Kerry Killinger, 51)

"Killinger would later refer to the Countrywide chief executive [Angelo Mozilo] in an e-mail as the 'great orange-skinned prophet from Calabasas.'" (127)

"'I was trying to torture them [JP Morgan] -- to smoke them out,' Fishman said later. 'They're torturing me, I'm torturing them. Everyone thinks we're kind of muttonheads. You're playing a weak hand, the world's coming to an end, and you're trying to run an auction on a
Cheryl Knowlton
Mar 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My husband and I listened to this audio book as we took a lengthy driving trip. We were both riveted!! This book was recommended to me by a good friend. I thought I knew the mortgage meltdown from most angles, as I've read at least 10 books on the subject. How wrong I was! I was missing the WAMU'S piece entirely.

Having lived in the mortgage world from 1999-2008 as a mortgage broker as well as a wholesale account executive from 2003-2005, this book brought back many memories, as well as a fair a
Sep 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kristen Grind did ALOT of research and has written it in simple english, not alot of finance phrases that us normal people don't understand. :)

I was surprised to see people I know/knew quoted.

Kristen also writes about Doug Wisdorf, his career and his suicide.
"Wisdorf, like Glaze, was a longtime WaMu employee. He had worked at the bank for more than two decades and had even met his wife at WaMu."

"...Doug Wisdorf, the deputy in charge of WaMu's investor relations department, had committed suicid
Sauparna Sarkar
For a former employee, a revealing but depressing read. A very well researched book, it provides a great historical background of the rise of the company and how market forces changed the company culture as management turned aggressive in the rush for higher margin products and ignored numerous warning signs. What was revealing to me was how early on these warning signs were exposed, but how clueless most people inside the company were about the issues. It was also disappointing to read how in-f ...more
Amy Wolf
Dec 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was there. Yes, sitting in the middle of the new corporate office in Seattle when Sheila Bair spoke and the whole edifice (which was founded in 1889) came tumbling down. I followed Grind's reports in the Puget Sound Business Journal, and she has put together an excellent book about the whole sad affair. One caveat: she deals almost exclusively with the major execs (Killinger; Rotella) and does not cover the minions (like me) whose entire lives were impacted (read: ruined) by the Bank's failure ...more
Aug 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Often when there is a complex news story that arrives in bits and pieces and is difficult to understand, I say that I will wait for the book to come out. This book may not be THE book about the financial crisis/recession that started in 2008 but it is an excellent introduction. Grind has put together an understandable and compelling account of the failure of Washington Mutual (WaMu) Bank. She paints vivid pictures of some of the personalities of involved, as well as the corporate culture of the ...more
Robert Boyd
Jul 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finance, business
An ok job--it tells the story at a rapid clip. Grind is hampered by a lack of good sourcing--so many people would not speak with her, and insanely, a lot of correspondence between the FDIC, WaMu, JP Morgan and the now defunct and discredited OTC have been redacted, as if they were from the CIA. Still, there is enough here to show that the top guys at WaMu were liars, were reckless with OPM, turned the other way so as not to witness fraud being committed by their employees and agents, etc. The on ...more
I tried to get into this book. Heck, I LIVED this story, so I'm as invested (ha!) as anyone in what really happened. There was just too much historical context / lead up and I abandoned the title just after Part II started. Maybe it was listening to it instead of reading it? Maybe it was the narrator, who sounded like he could have starred in one of WaMu's "stodgy old banker" ads and droned a tad? Or maybe, I just don't need to re-hash the "instant replay" nor "post-mortem" in all its gory detai ...more
Jun 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: financial-crisis
This was one of the more interesting books that I've read about the financial crisis. The book deals exclusively with the experience of Washington Mutual, covering its long road from a local bank to one of the largest mortgage lenders in the country. The book does a good job of explaining how the personalities of those running the company changed the bank's culture and led it to make increasingly risky loans. This is a major advantage of the book, as most other books about the financial crisis s ...more
A good part of this book was a biography of Kerry Killinger, CEO during the run up of fraud then failure at Washington Mutual. I think the author does her best to describe how and why he made or avoided the decisions he did. Meanwhile it demonstrates how a few very bad decisions and lack of oversight at the highest levels can ruin the lives of many "Main Street" families. I liked that she introduced some employees and customers, not just the decision makers and government officials that are ofte ...more
Jul 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book tells the inside story of WaMu from the savings and loan crisis of the 80's til the failure of the bank in 2008. If you wondered what led banks to make stupid decisions regarding mortgages this book fills you in. The author did a very good job showing this bank not as a huge corporation but as a group of people that changed the trajectory of the bank from a sound people oriented bank to a grow at all cost financial machine. A lot of research went into this book. I recommend it highly.
Aug 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is fantastic, in a Greek tragedy kind of way. Grind does a superb job mapping the rise and fall of WaMu through unchecked subprime lending.

Where this book really excels though is painting the broader picture of WaMu's failure, and the greater market and the actions of federal regulators. WaMu did not fail because of subprime loans, it failed because every chance it had for raising capital or finding a buyer was systematically taken away from it, until it was sold in a fire sale to JPM
Matt Beckwith
Aug 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a very difficult book to read. Difficult, but wonderful. Working at WaMu after leaving Providian, only to return back to Providian and then be acquired by WaMu, it was very interesting to read. Heartbreaking for sure. I was very proud to have been a part of WaMu and was devastated by the company's collapse. Hearing the story from this perspective was, dare I say, therapeutic.

Opening the book with D-Day, 9/25/2008 was powerful. Coming back to it near the end still sent chills down my sp
Jim Holscher
May 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent look at the forefront of the financial meltdown. The interesting things here are the unanswered questions. How was WAMU allowed to fail when citibank, AIG and Bank of America were allowed to be bought? How could a federal agency entrusted with insuring bank customer funds be allowed to step in an broker deals?

Interesting reading and well written. Easily one of the most researched and entertaining financial reads.
Jan 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
Worth reading, though it's likely that you'll get angry while reading it. The willful ignorance, the willful destruction, those are angering, but there's also the people who never knew, the ones who couldn't have seen things coming (mostly the shareholders), the people who were in-house and kept in the dark or had been in house for so many years and love the old WaMu so much they couldn't give it up. It's very well-written, very clear, and very sad.

This is a great book for the first 75% where the reporting is detailed, insightful and clearly with inside the bank knowledge. But once we get to 2008, the details become lighter and the specific dynamics of board room negotiations I totally lacking. The author has a great pulse on what happened in Seattle and at WaMu but no insider status in washington or new York. A good read and history of WaMu but the last part of the book is thin and disappointing.
Having experienced this "crisis"first hand as a Wamu Branch Manager, it was an interesting read to see it from the Executive's perspective. There was so much going on in the branches & with customer interactions that was left out. The branch employees were the face of the bank & the true heroes during September of 2008. There is a untold story here.

The Lost Bank would be a tough read for anyone who didn't love Wamu & live through its demise.
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I live in New York City, but I'm a West Coaster at heart. I love the outdoors - running, biking, hiking, backpacking - and I am deeply obsessed with the ocean, particularly Swami's in Cardiff, Calif. I've always been a newspaper journalist, covering a variety of business topics until I landed on finance, now at The Wall Street Journal. I am a huge bookworm - when I was 13, my father feared I was o ...more
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“So far, only a mortgage trader from Goldman Sachs has been criminally charged. As Fay Chapman would later observe about the financial crisis in general, “There is no law against stupidity.” 0 likes
“WaMu’s patchwork of systems for making mortgage loans did not help. A homeowner would lock in a low interest rate through” 0 likes
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