Kirsten Grind

Why is Kerry Killinger not in jail? I read Kirsten Grind's comprehensive new account, based on her reporting for Puget Sound Business Journal, in a weekend. Monday morning, I was no less angry. The Lost Bank (Simon & Schuster, $27) relates how Killinger assumed control of the small, regional, conservatively run—but fun, in a banker's kind of fun—thrift called Washington Mutual, founded in 1889. You know the rest of the story in outline, and Grind supplies the granular detail as to how WaMu grew and grew, expanded into subprime mortgages and liar loans, briefly attained Killinger's goal of becoming the Costco of banking via "the power of yes," then blew up with the 2008 real-estate bubble, becoming the largest bank failure in U.S. history. (No government bailout for you, WaMu!) Today a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, Grind spreads the balance sheets from wall-to-wall. Even if she never got face time with Killinger, she dutifully interviewed those who worked under the weirdly vanilla, non-confrontational leader—and the guy who hired him, to his everlasting regret. Another ex-WaMu'er tells Grind he came to see adjustable-rate mortgages as an evil product, but they were approved by a surpassingly bland, opaque CEO. (One who walked away with $22 million in severance, it should be noted.) There has to be morality to money lending or, failing that, regulation. Absent both controls, Killinger turns out to have been exactly the right man for his times. BRIAN MILLER

Tue., June 26, 7:30 p.m., 2012

 
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