WaMu’s corporate speak on bonuses translated…

May 22, 2008

Two months ago, Washington Mutual (WM) came under fire for trying to shield its top executives from the subprime crisis that has sent the stock down nearly 80% over the past year. At the company’s annual meeting last month, there was practically a revolt and the company wound up reversing its policy on bonuses.

Fast forward to today and the amended 10K the company filed this morning, which includes this explanatory note on the bonuses:

“In selecting and defining the net operating profit performance measure for 2008, a period when the Company was expecting to experience significantly elevated loan loss provision and foreclosed asset expense from its single-family residential mortgage loan portfolio, the Committee was focused on sustaining and growing the Company’s top-line revenues and controlling other expenses. Sustaining and growing top-line revenues and controlling other expenses were seen as important to achieving the following objectives: (a) enabling the Company to return to longer-range earnings expectations after these elevated credit costs subside, and (b) helping ensure that the fundamental drivers of the Company’s long-term franchise value would not be materially diminished during the period of elevated credit costs in its mortgage loan portfolios. The Committee believed that these objectives would provide a foundation for restoring shareholder value.”

That sounds like a lot of corporate-speak so we’ll translate it for you: we got caught trying to shield our executives from taking big hits as a result of some bad decisions, so we’re fixing it, but not willingly. Oh, and we’re going to say it was all about enhancing shareholder value, too!

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