Silicon Valley Bank’s Risks Went Deep. Congress Wants to Know Why.
Silicon Valley Bank’s Risks Went Deep. Congress Wants to Know Why.

Silicon Valley Bank’s Risks Went Deep. Congress Wants to Know Why.

The picture that has emerged so far is of a bank that grew ravenously and ran itself more like a start-up than a 40-year-old lender. The bank took in a large share of big — and uninsured — depositors even as it used its assets to double down on a bet that interest rates would stay low. (View Highlight)

Instead, the Fed raised rates sharply to slow rapid inflation, reducing the market value of Silicon Valley Bank’s large holdings of longer-term bonds and making them less attractive as new securities offered higher returns. When SVB sold some of its holdings to shore up its balance sheet, it incurred big losses. (View Highlight)

The question is why supervisors at the Fed failed to stop the bank from making dangerous mistakes that seem obvious in hindsight. And the answer is important: If the Fed missed the problems because of widespread flaws in the ways banks are overseen and regulated, it could mean other weak spots in the industry are slipping through the cracks. (View Highlight)

Silicon Valley Bank went to just above $115 billion in assets at the end of 2020 from $71 billion at the end of 2019. That growth catapulted it to a new level of oversight at the Fed by late 2021 — into the purview of the Large and Foreign Banking Organization group. (View Highlight)

By the time the bank had come under intense scrutiny, problems had already started: Fed officials found big issues in their first sweeping review. (View Highlight)

It is not clear precisely what those citations said, because the Fed has not released them. By the time the bank went through a full supervisory review in 2022, supervisors were seeing glimmers of progress on the issues, a person familiar with the matter said. (View Highlight)

SVB had been maintaining protection against rising rates on a sliver of its bond portfolio — but began to drop even those in early 2022, booking millions in profits by selling off the protection. According to a company presentation, SVB was newly focused on a scenario in which borrowing costs fell. (View Highlight)

By mid-2022, Fed supervisors had focused a skeptical eye on SVB’s management, and it was barred from growing by buying other institutions. But by the time Fed officials had reviewed the bank’s liquidity fully again in 2023, its problems had turned crippling. (View Highlight)

On March 9, customers tried to pull $42 billion from SVB in one day — the fastest bank run in history — and it had to scramble to tap the Fed’s backup funding source, the discount window. What loans it could get in exchange for its assets were not enough. On March 10, it failed. (View Highlight)

But that did not immediately stem the bleeding: Fed data showed that bank deposits fell by $98 billion to $17.5 trillion in the week that ended March 15, the biggest decline in nearly a year. But even those numbers hid a trend playing out under the surface: People moved their money away from smaller banks to banking giants that they thought were less likely to fail. (View Highlight)