It's been two years since the Seattle business known locally as "the friend of the family," and known nationally for serving up mortgages to anyone who could be propped up in a chair and made to scrawl something resembling a signature, became better known as the biggest catastrophic bank failure of recent history. And picking through the disastrous legacy of currently un-indicted, former CEO Kerry Killinger continues to yield great goods for enterprising journalists.
The New York Times made its run at a big, front-page, Sunday "reckoning" last December. But now ourTimes has weighed in with a far better, more comprehensive, more understandable piece. At 3,000 words, it's also unusually brisk and compact by SeaTimes flag-waving, investigative standards. (Part 2 appears today.) It's well worth a read. But in case you're too busy, say, trying to rent out 7,000 square feet of office space in downtown Seattle, we'll give you the choicest nugget that sums up the whole glorious Wamu enterprise.
The Times reports that Wamu's longtime chief legal officer began to think something might be amiss in early 2007, when she learned the following:
"Someone in Florida had made a second-mortgage loan to O.J. Simpson, and I just about blew my top, because there was this huge judgment against him from his wife's parents," she recalled. Simpson had been acquitted of killing his wife Nicole and her friend but was later found liable for their deaths in a civil lawsuit; that judgment took precedence over other debts, such as if Simpson defaulted on his WaMu loan.
"When I asked how we could possibly foreclose on it, they said there was a letter in the file from O.J. Simpson saying 'the judgment is no good, because I didn't do it.' "
It's actually kind of heartwarming. Even while a company as shameless as News Corp. found itself too embarrassed to publish Simpson's book, If I Did It, at that same moment, the broad-minded loan officers at WaMu were willing to give the Juice the benefit of the doubt. Isn't that exactly what "friends" are for?