Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Times Agrees: Sandlers Aren't Pariahs, You Just Can't Trust Them. There's A Difference.

The Times generously gave a correction this morning to Herbert and Marion Sandler, the "once-trusted mortgage pioneers" who had previously been identified as "pariahs" in a December 25 headline.

Too bad, because "pariahs" had that nice alliterative thing going, with "pioneers."

Here's what the Times said this morning, in shifting the Sandlers to the category of the merely "scrutinized":

A headline on Dec. 25 with an article about Herbert and Marion Sandler, bankers and philanthropists whose World Savings Bank originated a type of adjustable-rate mortgage called Pick-a-Pay that has led to many foreclosures as the real estate market and the economy collapsed, described incorrectly the consequences to the Sandlers of the criminal and legal investigations of the practices of the bank, which they sold to Wachovia in 2006. As the article noted, the Sandlers were once trusted mortgage pioneers and now face scrutiny, but they are not “pariahs.”

The Christmas Day account of the Sandlers' troubles went into great detail about their descent from respectability in the wake of the mortgage-market collapse. In November, the U.S. Attorney in San Francisco announced an investigation into their lending practices; they also face numerous lawsuits from investors. The article also noted that they have significant defenders, including former Wall Street Journal editor Paul Steiger -- who intervened with Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels to get a scathing sketch about them removed from the SNL archives.

The Times correction doesn't address how it came about, but it's easy to presume that the Sandlers, or one of their high-profile defenders, did battle with the Times over the "pariah" reference. Hey, they haven't been convicted of anything yet!

The dictionary defines pariah as "an outcast," or "any person or animal that is generally despised or avoided."

It's true that most Americans don't cross to the other side of the street when the Sandlers come walking their way. Congratulations to the Sandlers for showing the world that they're not suitable for shunning.

Not yet, anyway.

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