I’ll let the courts sort out whether Mr. Killinger will become the rare banker to be penalized for making disastrously bad loans. But I am fascinated by how his bank came to make those loans despite his foresight.
Answers are available, or at least suggested, in the mass of documents collected and released by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which held hearings on WaMu last year. Mr. Killinger wanted both the loan book and profits to rise rapidly, and saw risky loans as a means to those ends.
Moreover, this was a market in which a bank that did not reduce lending standards would lose a lot of business. A decision to publicly decry the spread of high-risk lending and walk away from it -- something Mr. Vanasek proposed before he retired at the end of 2005 -- might have saved the bank in the long run. In the short run, it would have devastated profits.