There’s scrappy Washington Mutual, having just shipped out its maladroit CEO, opening up to investors and analysts with a fresh breeze of candor, and what does it get: A swift kick in the share price. Newly hired CEO Alan Fishman brought some Brooklyn directness to the table. The company opened a window on its of third-quarter expectations on September 11, and they looked not too awful, given the circumstances. Loan loss provisions should be around $4.5 billion compared with $5.9 billion in the second quarter; net charge-off are expected to increase by less than 20 percent following a rise of almost 60 percent in the previous period; liquidity will hold at some $50 billion.
Investors rewarded this step toward transparency by driving down WaMu stock to a 52-week low of $1.75 on September 11. The stock closed at $2 on Sept. 15, but was trading below that level in after-market activity.
Moody’s and Fitch turned their ratings for Washington Mutual Inc. to junk. “We believe that Moody’s decision to reduce the rating of Washington Mutual, Inc. to below investment grade is inconsistent with the company’s current financial condition,” the company complained in a statement. “None of Washington Mutual, Inc.’s or Washington Mutual Bank’s unsecured debt is subject to ratings-based financial covenants that would result in acceleration or early maturity events or defaults.” That’s a good thing. But the erosion of share price is a sharp blade, as any of the recently departed institutions can attest.