Shooting back at SNL: Herb Sandler's been "listening to this crap for two years," and he's not going to take it anymore. Especially after "Saturday Night Live" labeled him and his wife, Marion, former owners of Oakland's Golden West Financial (nee World Savings) as "people who should be shot" in a skit that ran this past weekend.
In case you forgot, the Sandlers are famous (or infamous) for selling their former S&L, along with $122 billion of adjustable rate mortgages, to Wachovia in 2006. Yes, Herb and Marion made a pot of money, and stand to make more because of their Wachovia stock holdings.
But they don't want to be the fall guys for the collapse of Wachovia, and, by extension, the nation's financial system. "We are being unfairly tarred," Herb, 77, told the Associated Press. (We called Herb, who lives in the East Bay, but hadn't heard back by press time).
Among the points he made in that interview, and four months ago in an interview with the Wall Street Journal: Wachovia's problems are largely of its own management's making; Losses on the Golden West-generated loans carried by Wachovia have been grossly exaggerated. In fact, they're performing better than many of Wachovia's competitors.
He also believes Wachovia is worth more than Wells Fargo has offered, though in this market, he adds, Wachovia should take the money and run.
Others have long criticized the Sandlers' design-your-own home loan plan ("pick a pay") as a disaster waiting to happen. While Golden West's growth and profits soared - along with house prices - underwriting standards and credit requirements became increasingly lax, say insiders. Still, Golden West stood out like a beacon as other S&Ls collapsed around them. As late as 2004, the investment research firm Morningstar called the Sandlers' corporate governance a "paragon" of the industry.
The blame game will rage on, no doubt. Meanwhile, you can judge for yourself the degree of irony in Herb Sandler's onetime description of the S&L scandal as "a crook's paradise."
But the end is nigh: Even as Herb Sandler defends his legacy, the physical remains of his once-mighty empire have all but disappeared. As part of Wachovia's planned layoff of 12,000 employees, World's entire portfolio loan division has been eliminated, as have its underwriting departments, along with sundry loan managers and representatives.
Wachovia doesn't need them because, unlike the way World and Golden West did things, it is getting out of the business of keeping and managing individual mortgages, packaging them instead into parcels of securities to be traded, as so many other troubled banks have done.
"I'm one of the last survivors," said a mortgage consultant in one of Wachovia's Bay Area branches. "Not that we're doing much business.