The federal seizure and shotgun sale of Washington Mutual's assets was a trigger for customers like Arnold Harden to play it safe.
A Tampa business consultant, Harden closed out his WaMu account at a strip center bank branch at West Shore and Kennedy boulevards this morning, pocketing the $125 balance.
"I didn't want to wait around to see what happened next," Harden said, clutching a wad of bills that represented the last scrapings from his account. "Time to close it out."
Federal regulators seized the savings and loan Thursday night and arranged a deal to sell most of WaMu's operations to J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. Economists tagged it the largest banking collapse in U.S. history.
Christine Jackson first heard the news of the bank's demise as she met a reporter outside a Tampa branch this morning.
"They did? I'm not happy about that. Oh, my God! I like WaMu," Jackson said.
Many Tampa area customers declined to ditch the bank in its hour of distress. Some had mortgages or home equity loans with the bank. Others were content to let their money ride, encouraged by J.P. Morgan's reputation.
"I'm monitoring the situation in case the worst happens," said Alexandra Van Wie, whose Tampa frozen yogurt business, SunniBunni, banks with WaMu. "I've spread my deposits around several banks. It's the right thing to do these days."
Maylin Pupo directly deposits her checks into WaMu and wasn't prepared to switch banks on Friday. But she, too, was hedging her bets.
"All my big money is in another bank," Pupo said at a North Dale Mabry Highway WaMu outlet near Raymond James Stadium.