‘He Got What He Wanted’: Elizabeth Warren Pens Open Letter Torching Silicon Valley Bank CEO
Banks | Elizabeth Warren
by Meaghan Ellis | March 15, 2023 - 7:28am
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has penned a blistering open letter to Silicon Valley Bank CEO Greg Becker demanding answers regarding his role in the appeal to Congress for a rollback of banking regulations.
On Tuesday, March 14, the Democratic lawmaker focused on a statement submitted to the Senate Banking Committee by Becker "calling on Congress to reduce safety standards for 'mid-sized' banks like your own."
According to The Hill, Warren described Becker's 2015 testimony as misleading as she noted that his claims disguised the risks the bank was facing at the time.
Per the news outlet: "The bank had $209 billion in assets at the time of its collapse and federal regulators intervened after determining it posed a risk to the wider financial system."
"Despite your assurances to Congress that SVB was sufficiently protected from risk because of your various efforts, it is now clear that SVB was wholly unequipped to independently assess its business's risk," she wrote.
The lawmaker also highlighted the absence of a chief risk-assessment officer in the last several months before the financial institution's collapse. She also pointed to the piece of legislation signed by former President Donald Trump that implemented a number of deregulatory laws.
"Had SVB been subject to Dodd-Frank rules undone by the bank would have been required to maintain stronger liquidity and capital requirements and conduct regular stress tests that would have required SVB to shore up its business to weather the type of stress it experienced last week," she wrote.
Warren later added, "While you and company executives appear to have been successful in cashing out before the crash, SVB's customers were not as lucky. Many depositors were unable to access their funds last week, leaving small businesses and nonprofits questioning how they were going to make payroll in time."
In addition to the letter, Warren reiterated her arguments in a fiery tweet calling out Becker on Twitter.
"Silicon Valley Bank's CEO lobbied for weaker rules," she tweeted. "He got what he wanted from Congress — and abdicated his most basic responsibilities. Who did he meet with in D.C. and when? How much time and money was spent on lobbying? Becker should return his pay and bonus. NOW."
‘He Got What He Wanted’: Elizabeth Warren Pens Ope... (show quote
Maybe Becker should be slapped with fines as well as he also sat on the Board of the San Francisco Reserve Bank.https://www.axios.com/2023/03/15/progressives-and-bankers-are-both-blaming-fed-regulators-for-their-role-in-svbs-collapse
We know the proximate cause of SVB's collapse — a record-breaking $42 billion bank run fueled by its highly concentrated depositor base of venture capitalists and startup founders. And we know that losses in the bank’s holdings of long-duration bonds, triggered by rapidly rising interest rates, caused the immediate cash crunch.
So why didn't the bank's regional supervisors or bank examiners at the San Francisco Fed catch these risk management issues before they ballooned into crisis?
What they're saying: One of the Federal Reserve's main jobs is overseeing banks — and they failed here, says Aaron Klein, a senior fellow at Brookings who worked on financial regulation at the Treasury Department during the Obama administration.
His comments aren't dissimilar to those of the Bank Policy Institute, an industry advocacy group: "The failure of SVB appears to reflect primarily a failure of management and supervision," rather than a failure of the regulations on the books, the group said in an analysis released Tuesday.
The San Francisco Fed was the bank's supervising regulator. They could have and should have looked at SVB's books and identified the risks, says Saule Omarova, a law professor at Cornell, whose nomination to lead the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency fell through in 2021 — partly due to her views on tighter regulation.
The risks were publicly reported, too, says Dennis Kelleher, CEO of Better Markets, a nonprofit that advocates for tighter regulation, pointing to a November 2022 WSJ article highlighting risks to banks from rising interest rates that named SVB.
The other side: Bank examiner dealings are confidential, so we don't know what was happening behind the scenes.
Examiners might not have realized the level of risk at play. Previous to this crisis, uninsured bank deposits were viewed as only marginally riskier than accounts covered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. No one had ever seen a bank run go viral on Twitter.
SVB's former CEO until last week sat on the board of the San Francisco Fed, one of three executives representing banks in the district. (During the financial crisis, the fact that executives of failed banks sat on these boards was a controversial issue.)
State of play: The Federal Reserve said on Monday that it's conducting a review of how its supervision of the bank was handled. (When contacted by Axios, a Fed spokesperson didn't comment beyond that announcement.)