FDIC settles with former WaMu executives: sources

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 13, 2011 12:04 PM
FDIC settles with former WaMu executives: sources

By Tom Hals and Dave Clarke

(Reuters) - Three former executives of Washington Mutual Inc have agreed to a payment of about $75 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp over their role in the biggest bank failure in U.S. history, two sources familiar with the talks said on Tuesday.

The three -- former Chief Executive Kerry Killinger, former Chief Operating Officer Stephen Rotella and the company's former home lending chief, David Schneider -- were sued by the government's deposit insurer last March.

The payment will be largely funded by Washington Mutual's remaining liability insurance for directors and officers, the sources said. The FDIC originally sought $900 million.

One source said the personal contribution from the three, who collected $95 million in compensation between 2005 and 2008, would be "a meaningless amount."

The settlement was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The FDIC declined to comment but is expected to make an announcement later on Tuesday.

Attorneys for Killinger, Rotella and Schneider did not immediately return calls seeking comment. The three have denied wrongdoing.

Washington Mutual's banking business was seized by regulators in September 2008, at the height of the global financial crisis. The bank was immediately sold to JPMorgan Chase & Co for $1.88 billion, with no cost to the FDIC for covering deposits.

The holding company filed for bankruptcy the day after the bank seizure.

On Monday, the holding company reached an agreement with shareholders that could clear the way for it to end its three-year stay in Chapter 11 and begin distributing $7 billion to creditors.

An investigation by the U.S. Senate found that Washington Mutual contributed to the U.S. housing and financial crisis by adopting a compensation policy that encouraged its employees to ignore safety controls and crank out shoddy home loans.

Those loans were packaged into bonds and sold as top-notch securities. When U.S. housing market collapsed, those bonds plummeted in value and spread financial losses around the globe.

The FDIC brought its case in federal court in Washington state, accusing the three former executives of gross negligence and reckless disregard for the long-term safety of the bank.

The lawsuit was unusual in that it also named the spouses of Killinger and Rotella as defendants and accused them of helping their husbands hide assets, such as homes, from creditors. The claims against the spouses will be dropped and they will not contribute to the settlement, one source said.

After the lawsuit was filed in March, Rotella said the FDIC was attempting to get the remaining liability insurance.

He and the other Washington Mutual executives have said they are being blamed for pursuing a business strategy that was overseen and essentially approved by regulators. They also have noted that regulators did not anticipate the extent of the housing collapse.

The case is FDIC v. Killinger et al, U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington, No. 11-00459.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware and Dave Clarke in Washington; editing by John Wallace)