The Lost Bank

The Lost Bank

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

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 financial industry—and even the entire country— lost its way as well.

Kirsten Grind’s The Lost Bank is a magisterial and gripping account of these events, tracing the cultural shifts, the cockamamie financial engineering, and the hubris and avarice that made this incredible story possible. The men and women who become the central players in this tragedy— the regulators and the bankers, the home buyers and the lenders, the number crunchers and the shareholders—are heroes and villains, perpetrators and victims, often switching roles with one another as the drama unfolds.

As a reporter at the time for the Puget Sound Business Journal, Grind covered a story set far from the epicenters of finance and media. It happened largely in places such as the suburban homes of central California and the office buildings of Seattle, but Grind covered the story from the beginning, and the clarity and persistence of her reporting earned her many awards, including being named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Gerald Loeb Award. She takes readers into boardrooms and bedrooms, revealing the power struggles that pitted regulators at the Office of Thrift Supervision and the FDIC against one another and the predatory negotiations of investment bankers and lawyers who enriched themselves during the bank’s rise and then devoured the decimated bank in its final days.

Written as compellingly as the finest fiction, The Lost Bank makes it clear that the collapse of Washington Mutual was not just the largest bank failure in American history. It is a story of talismanic qualities, reflecting the incredible rise and the precipitous collapse of not only an institution but of trust, fortunes, and the marketplaces for risk across the world.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 400 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451617948 | 
  • June 2012
List Price $19.99

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The Failure of Washington Mutual

THE LOST BANK by Kirsten Grind chronicles the incredible rise and the precipitous collapse of Washington Mutual, an institution of trust, fortunes, and the marketplace for risk across the world.

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Read an Excerpt

Prologue

OUT OF TIME

Always an early riser, Steve Rotella arrived at WaMu just before 7:00 a.m. on September 25, 2008. The autumn morning was cool and dark. The president and chief operating officer of the country’s largest savings and loan bank was almost always among the first executives to show up each day.

Rotella lived with his wife, Esther, in a 7,200-square-foot house abutting a large cemetery in the upscale, trendy Seattle neighborhood of Capitol Hill. Each day Rotella climbed into his BMW and made the short trip downtown, easily navigating the now-familiar back roads to the office. He avoided... see more
Chapter One

FRIEND OF THE FAMILY

Not only will we succeed financially, we will succeed as human beings.

—Lou Pepper, speech to Washington Mutual employees

In 1951, Lou Pepper arrived in Seattle after World War II with no job prospects and lackluster interest from the law firms where he tried to find work. Now, thirty years later, he held the position of senior partner of a firm with sixty lawyers, a title that he, as a boy growing up in a farming town during the Great Depression, could hardly have fathomed. He had a lovely wife named Mollie and four children, almost all grown up. At fifty-seven, he was... see more

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About the Author

Kirsten Grind
Photograph by Sultan Khan

Kirsten Grind

Kirsten Grind has received more than a dozen national awards for her work, including a Pulitzer Prize finalist citation. A reporter for The Wall Street Journal, she lives in New York City.

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