House Republicans say regulators knew SVB was in trouble since 2021, did not step in

SVB’s collapse sent shockwaves through the markets, destabilized the economy, and raised fears of a domino effect of other banks.

Published: April 27, 2023 11:00pm

(The Center Square) -

A closer look at the months leading up to the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, the second-largest bank collapse in history, shows that regulators saw the warning signs since last year but did not step in.

SVB’s collapse sent shockwaves through the markets, destabilized the economy, and raised fears of a domino effect of other banks. Seemingly backing those fears, other banks have recently collapsed as well.

House Oversight Republicans are now reporting that the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco was well aware of SVB’s problems beginning in 2021 but did little to address them.

“SF Fed appears to have failed to adequately supervise SVB and respond to the bank’s mismanagement, ultimately leading to SVB’s seizure by federal regulators – the second largest bank failure in U.S. history – and threatening a panic in our banking system,” House Oversight Republicans, led by Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., said in a letter to to the president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, kicking off an investigation into the regulator’s role in the collapse.

The letter lays out troubling details about SF Fed’s oversight of the troubled bank, showing that at least six “Matters Requiring Attention” were filed against the bank, but these were citations that did not require the bank to change.

“These warnings, dating back to at least November 2021, are not public and reports outline that SVB was under full supervisory review by the SF Fed as early as July 2022,” the letter said, adding that “at the end of 2022, almost 96 percent of deposits held at SVB were uninsured, making the bank susceptible to a run.”

“While the signs of significant and alarming risk were clear, no regulator used more severe tools, such as fines or consent orders, to require action from SVB,” the lawmakers added.

The San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank did not respond to request for comment in time for publication.

Critics have also blasted the Biden administration’s role in bailing out SVB, saying the bank’s well-connected board, many of whom were Democratic donors, received special attention.

“Silicon Valley Bank was bailed out by Biden because many of the customers were well connected,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. “This is deeply concerning for every American who doesn’t have a direct line to the Oval Office.”

The Federal Reserve is expected to give a full report on SVB's collapse at the beginning of May.

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