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

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9781451617924: The Lost Bank: The Story of Washington Mutual-The Biggest Bank Failure in American History

Based on reporting for which the author was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Gerald Loeb Award, this book traces the rise and spectacular fall of Washington Mutual.

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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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

About the Author:

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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