Source: Komonews

The mortgage lending operations of Washington Mutual Inc., the biggest U.S. bank ever to fail, were threaded through with fraud, Senate investigators have found.

And the bank’s own probes failed to stem the deceptive practices, the investigators said in a report on the 2008 failure of WaMu.

The panel said the bank’s pay system rewarded loan officers for the volume and speed of the subprime mortgage loans they closed on. Extra bonuses even went to loan officers who overcharged borrowers on their loans or levied stiff penalties for prepayment, according to the report being released Tuesday by the investigative panel of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the chairman, said Monday the panel won’t decide until after hearings this week whether to make a formal referral to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution. Justice, the FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission opened investigations into Washington Mutual soon after its collapse in September 2008.

The report said the top WaMu producers, loan officers and sales executives who made high-risk loans or packaged them into securities for sale to Wall Street, were eligible for the bank’s President’s Club, with trips to swank resorts, such as to Maui in 2005.

Fueled by the housing boom, Seattle-based Washington Mutual’s sales to investors of packaged subprime mortgage securities leapt from $2.5 billion in 2000 to $29 billion in 2006. The 119-year-old thrift, with $307 billion in assets, collapsed in September 2008. It was sold for $1.9 billion to JPMorgan Chase & Co. in a deal brokered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

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