Bankruptcy Judge Mary Walrath rejected a request from Washington Mutual that a court- sanctioned committee appointed to represent the interest of shareholders be disbanded, saying that shareholders have a right to a place at the table.

The office of the U.S. Trustee, which monitors corporate bankruptcies on behalf of the Justice Department, agreed to appoint a shareholder committee after hearing from more than 3,500 people…Preferred and common shares of Washington Mutual, which is known as WaMu, have been actively traded since the company entered bankruptcy in 2008.

Shareholders claimed in court papers that Seattle-based 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.

WaMu sued the FDIC claiming the holding company is owed money by Washington Mutual Bank. When the federal regulators take over a bank, they set up a process that is similar to a bankruptcy to pay creditors. WaMu sued after the FDIC rejected the company’s claim that it was a creditor of the bank unit.

Washington Mutual’s bankruptcy has become fierce battleground and is one of those rare circumstances where shareholders have had an expanded position of power.  Disputed deposits in this bankruptcy case are the key points which could determine how much shareholders receive in the reorganization.  This could also serve as an example of what is to come, if there is a special “bankruptcy” division setup for financial institutions which has been proposed by the current administration.