Former Washington Mutual CEO Kerry Killinger got a few things off his chest when he testified before Congress last week, said Colin Barr in Fortune.com. He told the assembled senators that in 2008, regulators “unfairly” seized the Seattle-based thrift that he ran for 18 years, in what is still the largest bank failure in U.S. history. WaMu wasn’t undone by reckless mortgage lending, he said, but by Washington’s “apparent bid to cash in on bubbling anti–Wall Street sentiment.” He also said his firm was sacrificed so that regulators could protect “their buddies” at the bigger banks.
Killinger has a lot of nerve, said Roger Lowenstein in the Los Angeles Times. He blames regulators, Wall Street, and even JPMorgan Chase, which risked its own financial health when it “scooped up WaMu’s carcass.” But he left out the one person most responsible for bringing down the 100-year-old thrift: himself. From 2003 to 2008, while Killinger was pulling down a reported $100 million, he transformed WaMu from a “conservatively run” lender into a behemoth “with one purpose only—to issue loans, seemingly without regard to whether the borrower could repay them.” That’s the real reason WaMu “deserved to die.”