Distorting Risks to Bolster Pay

As more and more begins to emerge from the collapse of our financial markets, it is becoming clear that effective risk management was severely handicapped by those looking to increase their personal compensation.   The New York Times reported this past weekend some of the egregious mortgage lending practices at Washington Mutual (“WaMu”) that led to the largest bank failure in American history.   

WaMu gave mortgage brokers handsome commissions for selling the riskiest loans, which carried higher fees, bolstering profits and ultimately the compensation of the bank’s executives. WaMu pressured appraisers to provide inflated property values that made loans appear less risky, enabling Wall Street to bundle them more easily for sale to investors.  “I never had a clue about the amount of off-the-cliff activity that was going on at Washington Mutual, and I was in constant contact with the company,” said Vincent Au, president of Avalon Partners, an investment firm. “There were people at WaMu that orchestrated nothing more than a sham or charade. These people broke every fundamental rule of running a company.”

The major problem here is not that WaMu was poorly managed, but that the practices at WaMu became accepted by the mortgage industry as a whole.  Major reform is desperately needed to ensure that practices such as these are prevented from “becoming the norm” again.

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About Wheelhouse Advisors
Wheelhouse Advisors LLC is the publisher of The ERM Current™, an online publication and blog dedicated to providing the latest updates on current trends in Enterprise Risk Management & Control. Wheelhouse Advisors provides cost-effective Enterprise Risk Management & Control solutions to both large and mid-size corporations. To learn more about Wheelhouse Advisors, please visit our web site at www.WheelhouseAdvisors.com.

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