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The Lost Bank: The Story of Washington Mutual-The Biggest Bank Failure in American History Paperback – July 16, 2013

4.4 out of 5 stars 107 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, June 2012: The collapse of Washington Mutual in September 2008 was the largest bank failure in U.S. history and a symbolic casualty of America’s unfolding financial crisis. Wall Street Journal reporter Kristen Grind provides a fascinating fly-on-the-boardroom-wall account of the bank’s final hours, and takes us back through the history of what started as a quirky, familial savings and loan and became a byword for America’s financial malfunction. This is no tedious, dry retelling of a story we’ve heard hundreds of times in the last four years—Grind masterfully explains even the most complex financial concepts and has a natural talent for ferreting out tiny but humanizing details. Grind has already received numerous awards for her coverage of WaMu’s mighty fall, and The Lost Bank stands beside The Big Short and Too Big to Fail as required reading for students of the Great Recession. --Juliet Disparte --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"An exhaustively researched and well-written account of one of the widely ignored chapters of the great financial crisis. Grind does an excellent job of bringing the complex story to life, and capturing the sense of drama and the impact on peoples' lives. It also casts a spotlight on the role of the FDIC, which has not received as much attention as it should have done. An insightful and well-written book." —Gillian Tett, author of Fool's Gold

"Kirsten Grind’s dogged reporting lays bare a tale of out-of-control salesmen and executive-level gamblers who transformed one of America’s most respected banks into a weapon of mass financial destruction. The Lost Bank is a page-turning read that exposes the Wild West banking tactics that harmed customers, workers and the nation as a whole."—Michael W. Hudson, author of The Monster

"The transformation of Washington Mutual from folksy community lender to reckless 2000-branch behemoth is one of the epic stories of American finance. The bank that banned potted plants to save money in the 1980s became the bank that hired white-suited ‘evangelists’ to praise its go-go mortgages with screams of 'WaMu-lujah.' Grind tells this boom-bust story without lapsing into melodrama or malice, and her tale is all the more powerful for that." —Sebastian Mallaby, author of More Money Than God

"The Lost Bank is a superbly written, insider account of the collapse of Washington Mutual, among the more surprising downfalls of the financial crisis. It's a story of hubris, ambition and poor judgment that entertains but also is a disturbing coda to the difficult period, providing enduring lessons about how a group of executives who predicted the housing collapse were somehow felled by it."—Gregory Zuckerman, author of The Greatest Trade Ever

"What a marvelous book this is, so well-reported and so well-told by a writer who really threw herself into telling her story. And what an incredible tale that turns out to be, a once-beloved bank felled by greed, hubris, and a shocking disregard of all the obvious warning signs portending the financial disaster that was about to hit all of us. The life-savings of shareholders go up in smoke, a long-standing institution is done in by a new breed of short-sited executives, and meanwhile there was the havoc caused by all those subprime mortgages Washington Mutual, one of the country’s more aggressive and reckless lenders, pushed through the financial system. The Lost Bank would be a joy to read if not for the Greek tragedy that unspools vividly and painfully before your eyes. A first-rate job by a first-rate journalist."—Gary Rivlin, author of Broke, USA

"A detailed, instructive account of a bank failure far away from the power centers of New York City."Kirkus Reviews

"Lucid, entertaining . . . One of the best accounts... of the Great Crash as it played out on a human scale."Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"In The Lost Bank, Grind achieves the best of the business journalist's calling, not only reporting the WaMu disaster in clear, compelling prose for the general reader, but also offering new information and details that may surprise those who think they know the story... [A] sparkling achievement." (Jon Talton The Seattle Times)

"Grind... has produced a compelling case study of corporate incompetence and of how regulators are politically captured by the businesses they are meant to oversee."—Steven Pearlstein, The Washington Post

"An eye-opening book."—Booklist

"If indeed this book had been fiction, it would have been branded unrealistic, outlandish, and out of the realm of reality. It is, however, a factual account with endnotes, references, and detailed documentation of sources used. It is an incredible story... The book reads very much like a novel and holds the reader’s interest."—William J. Taylor, ABA Banking Journal

"A fantastic story... Every American should read about it..."—John Hockenberry, "The Takeaway"

"Almost a Barbarians-esque view..."—Andrew Ross Sorkin, "Squawk Box"

"Wall Street Journal reporter Kirsten Grind deftly restores the 'lost bank' to its rightful place in the annals of financial disasters... The clarity and humility of the writing is refreshing."—Tom Braithwaite, The Financial Times
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (July 16, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451617933
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451617931
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.3 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #131,136 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Reviewed by Michele Perrin, CPA, CMB, of Perrin & Associates, a Mortgage Banking/Warehouse Lending consultant and former First Vice President of Washington Mutual's Mortgage Banker Finance Division.

Reading The Lost Bank, journalist Kirsten Grind's in-depth investigation into the demise of Washington Mutual, was an emotional experience for me as a former "Wamulian" and a named character in the book. I knew that Kirsten had really done her homework based on how many times she called me with questions as she relentlessly pursued the story, but I never imagined how much truly stunning information she would dig up. I laughed, I cried (at least twice), and I gasped out loud as I read a story I thought I knew so well. Who knew a book about a bank could be such a gripping read? Who knew there was so much more to tell?

Kirsten Grind is a Wall Street Journal reporter today, but she was covering Washington Mutual for the Puget Sound Business Journal during the tumultuous final years of WaMu's dominance of the Seattle economy and skyline. She was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for her work covering the FDIC's takeover of Washington Mutual in September of 2008. She estimates that she read over 10,000 documents related to WaMu and interviewed hundreds of people, and her diligence paid off.

The books starts with a prologue from September 25, 2008, the day WaMu was taken over by the FDIC, but then steps back to 1981 when Lou Pepper reluctantly finds himself at the helm of a unprofitable $2 billion thrift with 35 branches in Washington State. He sets about making the place into the "Friend of the Family.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an extensively researched, great book that will be enjoyed particularly by those who are interested in understanding the psychology of some of the participants behind the financial collapse.

The book is more about the unraveling of Kerry Killinger and his executive team than it is about the bigger problems that plagued the credit and housing markets. But it's a great snapshot of the biggest bank collapse in American history and those who were supposed to regulate it. All told, the book feels accurate.

I was an officer at WaMu, having spent time in various marketing roles at the bank, including tours with the Retail Bank and Home Loans. I was there right up till the end and remember vividly that evening on September 25, 2008 when we found out we had been seized and handed over to JPMorgan Chase. We weren't surprised we were snatched up by another bank, but we were we disappointed it was Chase, which we knew would almost certainly eliminate all our jobs. As a marketer, the knowledge that Chase would impose its cold, tone deaf brand across our branch network, including Seattle, just added insult to injury. While I certainly wasn't privy to the conversations happening among WaMu executive team (thank God), I have to say the book largely reflects the perception that I believe most of the employees at headquarters had at the time. We thought WaMu's leaders, namely those in Home Loans, had completely lost their way and polluted the portfolio. We thought Kerry's pollyannaish view of the world totally outweighed the intellect that had made him a banking superstar. We thought our own executives' terrible decisions were due not only to their own greed and naivete, but also pressure from the secondary markets.
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Format: Hardcover
As a former WaMu employee, I enjoyed the accuracy and fair treatment of the subject here. I was amazed at the information the author was able to include in the book. Everything from the "shower stalls" (had to laugh when I read that, the same way I did when I heard that term for the first time in 2002), the internal blog, lending guidelines, the enthusiasm for the WaMu Center, and the especially the employee experience from 2006 - 2009.

I highly recommend this book to former WaMu employees, others in banking, and anyone who wants to understand the financial failure of the institution.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I appreciated the lens Kristin Grind used to focus on the individuals, relationships, team dynamics, organizational structure, and culture that created this collapse. The players were human and flawed and lost sight of what was most important.

The scariest part of all of this is that nothing, absolutely nothing, has changed fundamentally in the system to prevent this type of thing from happening again. Different names and faces, but the same greed, selfishness and myopathy. We're now seeing it with Jamie Dimon and JP Morgan Chase.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is, IMHO, the best book written to date about the recent (2007-2008) financial crisis. *Much* finer writing than The Big Short. Rather than placing the blame solely on the bond rating agencies, this story offers a much broader perspective. Complicated financial concepts (asset back securities, CDOs, etc.) are explained in such a pleasurable way and in the context of a suspenseful story. Can't believe I found learning about the different regulatory agencies 'thrilling'. Sure, I'm a big nerd, but this book is the bomb!
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