Wall Street and the Financial Crisis: Anatomy of a Financial Collapse


A. Subcommittee Investigation and Findings of Fact

As part of its investigation into high risk lending and the Washington Mutual case study, the Subcommittee collected millions of pages of documents from Washington Mutual, JPMorgan Chase, OTS, the FDIC, eAppraiseIT, Lenders Service Inc., Moody's, Standard & Poor's, various investment banks, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and others. The documents included email, correspondence, internal memoranda, reports, legal pleadings, financial analysis, prospectuses, and more. The Subcommittee also conducted more than 30 interviews with former WaMu employees and regulatory officials. The Subcommittee also spoke with personnel from the Offices of the Inspector General at the Department of Treasury and the FDIC, who were engaged in a joint review of WaMu's regulatory oversight and the events leading to its demise. In addition, the Subcommittee spoke with nearly a dozen experts on a variety of banking, accounting, regulatory, and legal issues. On April 13, 2010, the Subcommittee held a hearing which took testimony from former WaMu officials and released 86 exhibits. |106|

In connection with the hearing, the Subcommittee released a joint memorandum from Chairman Carl Levin and Ranking Member Tom Coburn summarizing the investigation to date into Washington Mutual and the role of high risk home loans in the financial crisis. The memorandum contained the following findings of fact, which this Report reaffirms.

    1. High Risk Lending Strategy. Washington Mutual ("WaMu") executives embarked upon a High Risk Lending Strategy and increased sales of high risk home loans to Wall Street, because they projected that high risk home loans, which generally charged higher rates of interest, would be more profitable for the bank than low risk home loans.

    2. Shoddy Lending Practices. WaMu and its affiliate, Long Beach Mortgage Company ("Long Beach"), used shoddy lending practices riddled with credit, compliance, and operational deficiencies to make tens of thousands of high risk home loans that too often contained excessive risk, fraudulent information, or errors.

    3. Steering Borrowers to High Risk Loans. WaMu and Long Beach too often steered borrowers into home loans they could not afford, allowing and encouraging them to make low initial payments that would be followed by much higher payments, and presumed that rising home prices would enable those borrowers to refinance their loans or sell their homes before the payments shot up.

    4. Polluting the Financial System. WaMu and Long Beach securitized over $77 billion in subprime home loans and billions more in other high risk home loans, used Wall Street firms to sell the securities to investors worldwide, and polluted the financial system with mortgage backed securities which later incurred high rates of delinquency and loss.

    5. Securitizing Delinquency-Prone and Fraudulent Loans. At times, WaMu selected and securitized loans that it had identified as likely to go delinquent, without disclosing its analysis to investors who bought the securities, and also securitized loans tainted by fraudulent information, without notifying purchasers of the fraud that was discovered.

    6. Destructive Compensation. WaMu's compensation system rewarded loan officers and loan processors for originating large volumes of high risk loans, paid extra to loan officers who overcharged borrowers or added stiff prepayment penalties, and gave executives millions of dollars even when its High Risk Lending Strategy placed the bank in financial jeopardy.


106. "Wall Street and the Financial Crisis: The Role of High Risk Loans," before the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, S.Hrg. 111-67 (April 13, 2010) (hereinafter "April 13, 2010 Subcommittee Hearing"). [Back]

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