WaMu crisis ends in sale

Some people might say they saw it coming.

Others are expressing surprise.

Either way, customers and investors had a lot to talk about following the collapse of Washington Mutual Inc. and the acquisition of the company by JPMorgan Chase & Co. for $1.9 billion, payable to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Sept. 25. Excluded from the transaction are the senior unsecured debt, subordinated debt, and preferred stock of Washington Mutual's banks.

Representatives from the Sequim WaMu branch refused comment. "We cannot talk to reporters in regard to this issue," said a branch manager who asked to remain unidentified.

Customers were more forthcoming.

"A lot of investors have lost a considerable amount of money," said Damon Houck, of Sequim, a WaMu customer with a savings account and CD. "Fortunately, for the average person who banks with Washington Mutual, it hasn't affected us. I'm happy I haven't lost any money and am therefore happy with the sale."

According to a press release posted on the JPMorgan Chase Web site, customers of both companies should continue banking as usual and feel confident that their deposits are secure.

Chase expects to convert Washington Mutual's consumer banking, home lending and credit card businesses to the Chase brand and technology platforms throughout the next two years. In the meantime, customers should continue using the debit cards, credit cards, checks and account numbers they have, as well as paying mortgages, credit cards and loans on time.

Both Chase and Washington Mutual customers should be able to access the combined network of 14,000 ATMs without fees in the coming months.

The bank plans to complete most systems integrations and rebranding efforts by the end of 2010, closing less than 10 percent of branches in the combined network in overlapping markets.

"This deal makes excellent strategic sense for our company and our shareholders," said Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase in a recent press release. "Our people have worked hard to build a strong franchise and balance sheet - making this compelling transaction possible. As we have said in the past, increasing our regional banking presence not only strengthens our retail business, but also benefits other business lines across our firm, including our commercial banking, business banking, credit card and asset management groups."

"JPMorgan Chase is strongly committed to both a strong banking system and our responsibility as a good corporate citizen," Dimon continued. "We are active in the states and local communities where we do business."

Employees and vendors should continue to operate business as usual. "We look forward to welcoming Washington Mutual's employees to JPMorgan Chase and working with them as we build a great company together," Dimon added in the press release.

The sale will benefit customers, according to Charlie Scharf, head of Chase's Retail business. "Washington Mutual customers will be able to take advantage of Chase's broader network and a wider product range - all backed by the strength and security of JPMorgan Chase," he stated in the Sept. 25 press release.

In fact, Chase plans to provide more personal bankers, business bankers, loan officers and investment advisers to serve the needs of Washington Mutual, customers and to expand their relationship with Chase.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. is a leading global financial services firm with assets of $2 trillion and operations in more than 60 countries. Buying WaMu expands Chase's consumer branch network into California, Florida, and of course, Washington state. The combined 5,400 branches in 23 states make Chase the nation's second-largest branch network, reaching 42 percent of the U.S. population.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) issued a statement following the sale. "This truly brings the reality of our national financial crisis home to our state," she said. "I have been in touch with JPMorgan and WaMu about their plans and I have been assured that the transaction will go smoothly and that WaMu's banking customers will not see any interruption in service. That is good news."

"It is still too early to know the impact on local jobs, but I am saddened that this national crisis is having such an impact on our local families and economy," Murray continued in her speech. "We need to quickly contain the serious financial situation we face today and help struggling families, but we need to do it in a responsible way. And it is time to begin work on reforms to ensure Americans are never again left holding the bag for Wall Street's mistakes."

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