Sheila Bair is One Tough Cookie

Emails between the Office of Thrift Supervision and the FDIC over the issue of who can do what with regards to Washington Mutual in 2008 are particularly fierce. Carl Levin, chairman of the subcommittee investigating the collapse of WaMu, called it a “turf battle.”

At the Senate hearing today, John Reich, former director of OTS, explained it this way: “Rome was burning” and “Blood pressure was running high.” Levin said: “I don’t see your blood pressure getting up over a bank that was engaged in dangerous practices.”

From the WaMu Exhibits:

“I cannot believe the continuing audacity ofthis woman.” – Email from OTS Executive Direc!or John Reich to OTS senior official Scott Polakoff (referring to FDIC Chair Sheila Bair), 9/10108, Polakoff

—– Original Message —–
From: “”Bair, Sheila C.”” []
Sent: 08/06/200805:46 PM AST
To: Donald Kohn
Subject: Fw: W

This is pretty over the top

—–Original Message—–
From: Reich, John M
To: Bair, Sheila C.
Sent: Wed Aug 06 17:32:482008
Subject: Re: W

Dear Sheila, You really know how to stir up a colleague’s vacation.

I do not under any circumstances want to discuss this on Friday’s conference call, in which I mayor may not be able to participate, depending on cell phone service availability on the cruise ship location.

Instead, I want to have a one on one meeting with Ben Bernanke prior to any such discussion – as early next week as possible following my return to the office. Also, I mayor may not choose to have a similar meeting with Secretary Paulson.

I should not have to remind you the FDIC has no role until the PFR (i.e. the OTS) rules on solvency and the PFR utilizes PCA.

You personally, and the FDIC as an agency, would likely create added instability if you pursue what I strongly believe would be a precipitous and unprecedented action. And ifit occurs without my consent, I will not sit quietly by and observe – there would be a public reaction. Put yourself in the PFR’s shoes in this situation. We have our responsibilities, including the right of primary supervisory determination of this institution’s condition, and until Congress changes the statutes under which we operate, our responsibilities as the PFR are not to be simply tendered to the FDIC in a down economic cycle.

It seems as though the FDIC is behaving as some sort of super-regulator – which you
and it are not. I also believe there could be a high potential for FDIC actions of the type you are contemplating to calIse irreparable harm to Wamu if, at any point in the near future, Wamu wishes to actualy seek a buyer. The potential harm could stem from the fact that any such potential buyer may have been allready been contacted by the FDIC.
If in fact any meetings or discussions have already taken place by the FDIC with either JPMC, Wells Fargo, or any other entity, in any capacity in which WaMu was even mentioned, I would like to see a copy of the signed confidentiality agreement signed by the bank – required in any resolution scenario before an institution is told the name of the failing bank.

This is an OTS regulated institution, not an FDIC regulated institution. We make any decision on solvency, not the FDIC, and I have staff equally as competent as staff at the FDIC, whom I know well.

The FDIC can do whatever internal contingency planning it wishes, but should in no way go outside the FDIC. This is a 3-rated institution. Are you also trying to find buyers for Citi, Wachovia, Nat City and others?

Finally, ifWamu were to learn ofthe FDIC’s actions, there may well be a question as to whether these actions may constitute a disclosable event. That, in and of itself, is a reason not to proceed with this approach for a publicly traded institution. The government should not be in the business of arranging mergers – particularly before they are necessary, and we are not at that point in WaMu’s situation.

I will attempt to be on the Friday conference call, and I am going to assume this notion is not going to be raised.


—– Original Message —–
From: Bair, Sheila C.
To: Reich, John M Cc: Murton, Arthur J. ; Polakoff, Scott M
Sent: Wed Aug
Subject: W

Dear John,

I’d like to further discuss contingency planning for W during the calion Friday. Art talked with Scott about making some discrete inquiries to determine whether there are institutions which would be willing to acquire it on a whole bank basis if we had to do an emergency closing, and on what terms. I understand you have strong objections to our doing so, so I’d like to talk this through. My interest is in assuring that IF we have to market it on an emergency basis, there is multiple bidder interest.
In any event, both the FDIC and the FRB agree that there needs to be a contingency plan in place, so let’s talk this through on Friday. I’d really like to develop a plan everyone is comfortable with.


(hidden for your protection)
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54 Responses to “Sheila Bair is One Tough Cookie”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I redo high fives if they weren’t good enough the first time.


  2. Anal_yst says:

    Further confirming what many have thought all-along, that Bair is a disaster.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I have munched her cookie. It is indeed tough.


  4. Anonymous says:

    How does this show She-bair as a disaster? Because of the “super regulator” overtone?

    What I read here is a heads up about discussing a troubled institution, and a heated butt-hurt reply from the head of the OTS. Further, her reply was simply “you mad?” rather than a retaliatory bucket of butt-hurt.

    We are talking about Washington Mutual, which ended up tanking and being sold on 9/25/2008, fifty days after this email exchange… by the FDIC and OTS. In hindsight, Bear was right and professional, Reich was wrong and a whiny bitch, so still not seeing the disaster aspect.

  5. Anonymous says:

    You are finding your niche here, Kouwe. Cut and paste from everywhere, don’t link to your sources and get away with it cause this ain’t the NYT anymore.

  6. Zach,

    I have no complaints. Actually a great post. Keep it up.

    -Cracked Screen

  7. Anonymous says:

    CowWii: once you lose the people you lose the war. Heart and minds, laddie, hearts and minds.

    Chirp …

  8. @5 – I am amazed at his productivity when he lets himself go…
    Kouwe for the quickie (copy/paste) win!

  9. anon says:

    OTS is a fucking joke. And that Polakoff character is a real shyster. Treas OIG cited him as a goon with the IndyMac debacle and back dating capital infusion.

  10. hgfds says:

    Dont these people proof read their emails?

  11. Anonymous says:

    no they don’t

  12. Anonymous says:

    Tag should be “regulators can’t get their shit together”.

  13. guest says:

    “The FDIC can do whatever internal contingency planning it wishes, but should in no way go outside the FDIC. This is a 3-rated institution. Are you also trying to find buyers for Citi, Wachovia, Nat City and others?”

    That says it all.

  14. Anonymous says:

    “If in fact any meetings or discussions have already taken place by the FDIC with either JPMC, Wells Fargo, or any other entity, in any capacity in which WaMu was even mentioned, I would like to see a copy of the signed confidentiality agreement signed by the bank – required in any resolution scenario before an institution is told the name of the failing bank.”

    combined with your quote this is great

  15. P says:

    Bair was right?
    Since when could regulators seize solvent banks?
    Explain that to these people-

    “Up to 19,000 employees of Washington Mutual face being laid off this weekend as JPMorgan Chase turns up the synergy on its recent acquisition.”

    “The Washington State Investment Board’s funds will lose about $47 million because of the failure of Washington Mutual, state officials tell KIRO 7 Eyewitness News… Florida’s Pension, Hurricane Funds Have Millions In WaMu Holdings… Pension fund (Florida Retirement System): $42.18 million in WaMu holdings… Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund: $41.28 million… At least seven pension funds lost their private equity investments in Washington Mutual, following its failure and subsequent purchase by JPMorgan Chase… Investors in the $19.8 billion TPG VI include CalPERS, New York State Common Retirement Fund, Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System, Washington State Investment Board, Los Angeles City Employees Retirement System and the San Francisco City & County Retirement System.”…

    Besides, what bank didn’t have liquidity pressure back then?
    She wiped out Wamu bondholders.
    She refused to help Wachovia stay independent.
    So why in the world was the FDIC helping Goldman Sachs, GE, GMAC, etc fight liquidity pressure by backing over $300 billion in bank bonds?
    She sold Wamu for $1.9 billion to JP Morgan but then helped JP Morgan raise $40 billion in bank bonds?
    The FDIC is the primary federal regulator for Class NM and SB banks. Go and check its website to see how many of those also failed.
    Our Congress completely missed the point here.
    Why should we believe FDIC’s assessment about Wamu over that of OTS?
    Maybe OTS was right to believe that Wamu could have lasted until TARP passed.
    Did people forget the FDIC picked Citigroup to “rescue” Wachovia?


  16. P says:

    “”Loss-Share’: FDIC Offers Billions in Guarantees For Buyers Of Failed Banks”

    “FDIC Watched as ‘Hot Money’ Boomed at New Frontier…
    While Greeley, Colorado-based New Frontier’s loan losses rose, it took almost two years for state and federal regulators to shut the bank — a delay that may have made the closing more costly.”

    “Lennar… has purchased a 40% interest in the loan portfolios, while the FDIC is keeping the remaining 60% equity interest. The FDIC provided $627 million of financing at no interest for seven years.
    With FDIC kicking in about $365 million in equity, Wall Street analysts pegged the portfolios’ overall purchase price at $1.22 billion, or 40 cents on the dollar”

  17. P says:

    “Washington Mutual had a Tier 1 capital ratio of 8.4 percent on Sept. 30, well above the 6 percent threshold that regulators use to classify a bank as well capitalized. JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM), which purchased WaMu had a similar ratio of 8.9 percent. Wachovia… had a capital ratio of 7.5 percent as of Sept. 30, compared to Wells Fargo’s 8.6 percent. And National City had an 11 percent capitalratio, and yet had to sell out to PNC Financial Services (NYSE: PNC). By comparison, Bank of America (NYSE: BAC), considered one of the bedrock financial institutions, had a capital ratio at the end of the third quarter of 7.6 percent.”

    “Washington Mutual, which already essentially ‘went under’ by nature of forced acquisition, has a tangible book/asset ratio of 3.66. And that number is on the higher end of the scale/list. So, the thinking would be that many of the institutions with ratios lower than that could potentially be in trouble as well.
    The US banks & their tangible book/asset ratios:
    BB&T (BBT) 6.86
    PNC (PNC) 5.87
    Northern Trust (NTRS) 5.51
    Goldman Sachs (GS) 4.86
    Morgan Stanley (MS) 4.35
    JPMorgan (JPM) 3.83
    Washington Mutual (WM) 3.66

    Wells Fargo (WFC) 3.50
    Merrill Lynch (MER) 2.84
    Bank of America (BAC) 2.83
    US Bancorp (USB) 2.74
    Lehman Brothers (LEHMQ.PK) 2.39
    Citigroup (C) 1.52”…

    “Right before Washington Mutual failed, its TCE ratio was 7.8%.”

  18. P says:

    “TO ESCAPE FEDERAL INTERFERENCE ON PAY AND OTHER MATTERS, Goldman Sachs and other big financial firms are eagerly seeking to repay the government’s TARP equity investments.
    But none of them are talking about leaving a Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. bond-guarantee program that benefits them much more. Goldman (ticker: GS) has issued $29 billion of low-cost debt through this FDIC program; Bank of America (BAC), $44 billion; and JPMorgan (JPM), $38 billion. In total, about $340 billion of debt has been sold under the six-month-old arrangement, called the FDIC Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program (TLGP).”

  19. P says:

    OTS was right about this part.

    Via its treatment of Wamu, the FDIC created chaos by destroying both the bond market and the credit market.

    “’The first thing that happened this morning: credit-default swaps blew out on Wachovia… Wachovia bondholders are wondering if they’re next,’ Sauter said. Translation: options on Wachovia bonds showed confidence in the securities had collapsed. ‘Wachovia is on the ropes now because their financing costs are going through the roof. It’s an absolute reaction against how FDIC sold WaMu.’”

    “The amounts deposited with the ECB [European Central Bank] rise from a daily average of 0.09 billion euros in the week starting September 1, 2008 to a daily average of 169.41 billion in the week of September 29, 2008… The amounts deposited with the ECB start rising after the collapse of Washington Mutual when the crisis spreads outside the investment banking realm.”

    It was also right about the problem with the FDIC going behind banks’ back soliciting bids and offering generous loss sharing agreements.

    Take a look at the last two years. How many banks were sold without any loss sharing agreements from the FDIC?


  20. Anonymous says:

    “I do not under any circumstances want to discuss this on Friday’s conference call, in which I mayor may not be able to participate, depending on cell phone service availability on the cruise ship location.”

    That says it all.

  21. Observer says:

    Sheila has been the only effective, honest financial regulator in DC for years and years. Reminder: That OTS Director “retired” in the middle of the mess, and his Acting Replacement, Polakoff, was placed on leave when it came to light that SIX banks under OTS’ supervision, including IndyMac, were caught backdating their capital infusions, with OTS’ consent. Any idiot above who thinks Sheila was wrong must be a WaMu investor or executive.

  22. Observer says:

    And oh yeah, that “Solvency” was based almost entirely on unsupportable and out of date asset valuations. After they were resolved, all those thrifts turned out to have much less than even OTS thought, in terms of saleable assets.

    The only way the FDIC, and therefore the public, is protected when these big banks go down is to find out if their is ANYBODY out there who might want to take over. That WaMu CEO is as big a Liar as Stanford and Petters and Madoff. He just hasn’t been indicted – yet.

  23. Observer says:

    And P, you loser, the FDIC is NOT a regulator of thrifts like WaMu – but they DO get left holding the bag when the actual regulators don’t do thier job, as they weren’t doing at any point of the mortgage melt-down.

  24. P says:

    All three banks that should have been closed long ago were Class NM, with the FDIC being the primary federal regulator.

    “The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. faces a daunting task in finding a solution for the broken banks in Puerto Rico that doesn’t damage the surviving banks or the island’s economy.

    The FDIC is trying to minimize its potential loss from three weak Puerto Rican banks by drumming up interest among banks and private-equity investors in buying W Holding Co Inc.’s Westernbank, R&G Financial Corp.’s R-G Premier Bank, and EuroBancshares Inc.’s EuroBank, according to several people familiar with the matter. All three banks are in dire financial condition; closing them could cost the FDIC insurance fund as much as $10 billion, based on worst-case losses from recent bank failures”

    Bank Charter Class
    A classification code assigned by the FDIC based on the institution’s charter type (commercial bank or savings institution), charter agent (state or federal), Federal Reserve membership status (Fed member, Fed nonmember)and its primary federal regulator (state chartered institutions are subject to both federal and state supervision).

    * N = commercial bank, national (federal) charter and Fed member, supervised by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC)
    * SM = commercial bank, state charter and Fed member, supervised by the Federal Reserve (FRB)
    * NM = commercial bank, state charter and Fed nonmember, supervised by the FDIC
    * SB = savings banks, state charter, supervised by the FDIC
    * SA = savings associations, state or federal charter, supervised by the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS)
    * OI = insured U.S. branch of a foreign chartered institution (IBA)”


  25. Chris says:

    I observe that John Reich is on a cruise ship as our economy falters. Clearly, the circumstances of our economic demise do not justify that one of our top financial regulators cancel his cruise. And if he can’t get cell phone service, well, so be it.

    Something tells me that he’s a Bush appointee.

  26. Janus Daniels says:

    “Reich, John M
    To: Bair, Sheila C.
    Sent: Wed Aug 06 17:32:482008
    Subject: Re: W
    Dear Sheila, You really know how to stir up a colleague’s vacation.
    I do not under any circumstances want to discuss this on Friday’s conference call, in which I mayor may not be able to participate, depending on cell phone service availability on the cruise ship…”
    For further amusement:
    Ex-OTS Director Reich Resists Criticism on WaMu Failure

  27. Oooops says:

    You should have redacted the ladies email address!

  28. Mikey says:

    Sheila will be wearing silver bracelets and sitting in a women’s prison soon.

  29. Michael Littlebig says:

    Director John Reich was remiss in his duties as Director of the Office of Thrift Supervision. Under Reich the OTS made malfeasance an art form. John Reich should be charged with dereliction in his performance at this regulatory agency.
    Since the OTS was negligent in their responsibilities as a bank regulator then they were complicit in the foreclosures by their federally chartered banks that this agency in effect licensed to steal homes from millions and millions of homeowners.
    Shelia Bair is a intelligent,articulate and experienced Chairman of the FDIC who has had to clean up the nightmare left by John Reich.
    Michael LittleBig
    Cleveland Ohio
    Foreclosure case 2006 cv 584018
    Victim of OTS regulated AmTrust Bank.

  30. The Other Katherine Harris says:

    Bless Sheila Bair, but she really should learn the difference between “discrete” and “discreet”.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Rome was burning and that bitch was fucking up my vacation!

  32. Observerisfullofcrap says:

    So, observer since you dispute the OTS figures why
    don’t you give us the real figures that justify Bair seizing
    WaMu and giving them to mega banks thus creating even
    bigger banks that are too big to fail.

    Bair was used by Dimon and the other banksters who sit
    on the Fed. The FDIC of today would has become a fascist
    organization that doles out favors to the politically well-connected
    at the expense of private investors.

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