Prologue OUT OF TIME
Always an early riser, Steve Rotella arrived at WaMu just before 7:00 a.m. on September 25, 2008. The autumn morning was cool and dark. The president and chief operating officer of the country’s largest savings and loan bank was almost always among the first executives to show up each day.
Rotella lived with his wife, Esther, in a 7,200-square-foot house abutting a large cemetery in the upscale, trendy Seattle neighborhood of Capitol Hill. Each day Rotella climbed into his BMW and made the short trip downtown, easily navigating the now-familiar back roads to the office. He avoided...
FRIEND OF THE FAMILY
Not only will we succeed financially, we will succeed as human beings.
—Lou Pepper, speech to Washington Mutual employees
In 1951, Lou Pepper arrived in Seattle after World War II with no job prospects and lackluster interest from the law firms where he tried to find work. Now, thirty years later, he held the position of senior partner of a firm with sixty lawyers, a title that he, as a boy growing up in a farming town during the Great Depression, could hardly have fathomed. He had a lovely wife named Mollie and four children, almost all grown up. At fifty-seven, he was...