You probably could have seen this coming. Last year, Chuck Prince at Citigroup
It's been a tumultuous few months for WaMu, which has been hammered hard over its heavy exposure to the California and Florida housing markets. Back in March, Killinger came under fire from shareholders after disclosing that some executives' bonuses would be calculated as if parts of the real estate debacle -- the same one that's shoved shares 80% lower in the past year -- essentially never happened. That plan was eventually scrapped, but only in time for shareholders to eat a $7 billion dilution and learn that management had rebuffed a sweet offer from JPMorgan Chase
On the other side of the country, Wachovia
New face, same company
As Peter Lynch once said, "Go for a business that any idiot can run -- because sooner or later, any idiot probably is going to run it." Bank executives enjoyed a multiyear run-up that rewarded ridiculous behavior, provided those actions squeezed out short-term profits. While you should have little pity for the departed executives, the past few years have been a double-edged sword for them. Had they done the "appropriate" thing during the real estate run-up and stuck to time-tested, conservative lending practices, they would have likely been fired for underperforming their gung-ho peers. When quarterly results become the end-all performance metric, there's little room for leaders to venture outside the herd.
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