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Originally published Thursday, March 4, 2010 at 5:23 PM

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WaMu, JPMorgan, FDIC negotiate control of $4 billion

Washington Mutual, the bankrupt former parent of the biggest U.S. bank to fail, is in talks to resolve a dispute with federal banking regulators and JPMorgan Chase & Co. over who owns about $4 billion in deposits.

Bloomberg News

Washington Mutual, the bankrupt former parent of the biggest U.S. bank to fail, is in talks to resolve a dispute with federal banking regulators and JPMorgan Chase & Co. over who owns about $4 billion in deposits.

The money is being held by JPMorgan, which bought Washington Mutual's bank for $1.9 billion after it was shut by federal regulators. Seattle-based WaMu claims it owns the money and has been fighting the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and JPMorgan in court to regain it. All three entities are now trying to find a way to resolve the dispute, WaMu attorney Brian Rosen said.

"There seems to be some momentum associated with that," Rosen said Thursday in court. WaMu agreed to put off until March 12 what it hopes will be a final court hearing over the disputed cash.

WaMu has asked U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Mary Walrath in Wilmington, Del., to give it control of the money so it can pay creditors who claim to be owed about $8 billion. The FDIC says it should take temporary custody of the cash because of losses caused by the failure of WaMu's bank. JPMorgan says it might have a right to the cash because it bought the failed bank.

A settlement could resolve the key issue in WaMu's bankruptcy case, which has pitted its bondholders against a group of creditors owed billions because of the bank's failure.

Before it failed, Washington Mutual Bank, with 2,200 branches and $188.3 billion in deposits, was the largest savings and loan in the country. After a run on the bank in September 2008 caused it to lose $16.7 billion in deposits within 10 days, the federal Office of Thrift Supervision closed the bank and turned it over to the FDIC.

The FDIC said in court papers it is owed an unspecified amount of money by WaMu and that it should be allowed to take charge of the $4 billion to offset those claims. WaMu has sued the FDIC over the failure of its bank and the way its sale to JPMorgan was handled.

Separately, a committee of shareholders sued WaMu on Wednesday, asking Walrath to force the company to hold an annual shareholders meeting.

Shareholders have claimed in court papers that WaMu could collect $20 billion from lawsuits, tax refunds and disputed cash deposits. That would allow all of the company's $8 billion in debt to be paid in full and leave money to the owners of 23 million shares of preferred stock and 1.7 billion shares of common stock, shareholders claimed.

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