At the end of 2007, Washington Mutual, Inc. (generally known as “WaMu”) was the largest savings and loan bank in the U.S., based on assets ($328 billion) and revenue ($25.5 billion). Less than nine months later, WaMu was seized by federal regulators and sold to JPMorgan Chase for $1.9 billion in a transaction facilitated by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). During the worst recession since the Great Depression, WaMu became the largest U.S. bank failure in history.
This case illustrates how a financial institution's business strategy affects risk and how these characteristics are revealed in the financial statements. Students assume the role of a financial analyst examining WaMu's 2007 10-K after its release in March 2008. In particular, they evaluate the quality of WaMu's loans and the adequacy of WaMu's estimates for loan losses, one of the most important discretionary accruals for financial institutions. Students gain insights into the consequences of WaMu's business strategy to emphasize high-margin loan products by comparing WaMu to (1) the relatively conservative Wells Fargo Bank and (2) the average large FDIC bank. This case has been used successfully in graduate-level financial statement analysis courses.