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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

November 25, 2008 at 4:19 PM

WaMu’s demise

Just empty space

The demise and impact of Washington Mutual, while tragic to the staffers and their families, is not comparable to the legacies of the big players in the Washington state banking world [“WaMu’s historic and tragic legacy,” editorial, Nov. 21].

The lead banks mentioned in your editorial, Seafirst and Rainier, were giants and not just in Seattle but throughout the state. There was not a single community in the state that did not have at least one of the branches of these two homegrown banks. Both banks were involved and influential within our state by a slow, steady growth lasting more than 100 years. They were deeply involved in both business and community support everywhere they were located.

And while the administrative and executive functions have long since disappeared, the branches and many of the ex-Rainier and Seafirst people are still here and still contributing.

WaMu, on the other hand, was a puny little S&L [savings and loan] with a small staff and little or no wide-reaching community impact. That is, up until 15 or so years ago when they went on an acquisition spree fueled by greed and managed under a cloak of avarice.

All of that growth occurred outside of Washington state. Even though WaMu located the executive offices and administrative support in Seattle, it was really an out-of-state bank. Less than 15 percent of the branch network and customer base was located in Washington. The bank’s primary banking charter was issued in California and more than 75 percent of WaMu’s customers were located in California, Texas, Florida and New York.

Many of the staffers located in the Seattle area were from other parts of the country, relocated here during the administrative-staff explosion that occurred in the early part of the decade. Many of those people will be laid off and will return to wherever they came from, caring little if jobs return to Seattle.

So I say to WaMu, good riddance, you’ve been a bad corporate citizen and you’ve broken the hearts of a lot of people who came to expect more. The culture at Seafirst and Rainier was to give back to the community; the culture at WaMu was to increase the value of stock to enrich the shareholders.

The local impact of the demise of corporate WaMu will be negligible, discounting, of course, a lot of empty office space.

— Bill Anderson, Auburn

All in special interests

As Washington Mutual is about to lay off thousands of high-tech employees in Seattle, we see a story in the paper about how there is no smoking gun to support the claims of conspiracy about the failure.

Then I hear about Citigroup being in exactly the same position as Washington Mutual, yet they are given billions by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson — no FDIC takeover or fire sale of the company like Washington Mutual.

This leads one to wonder why Washington Mutual was seized and Citigroup is allowed to continue. One could speculate that it is acceptable to leave Northwest shareholders with worthless stocks but not Bush family friends, the Saudi Royal Family who are majority shareholders of Citigroup.

— Michael Barr, Sammamish

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