Yesterday the Federal Reserve issued an interesting report on the collapse of the Silicon Valley Bank. The most interesting part of the report is its conclusion that the Fed, itself, was partly to blame for the bank’s failure.
To be sure, the report concluded that the primary cause of the downfall of SVB was mismanagement by the bank. SVB had an increasing amount of uninsured deposits–which made it especially prone to the panicky, social media-driven bank run that brought the bank down–and inadequate safeguards against a sudden change in interest rates. The report noted that executive compensation at the bank was tied too closely to short-term profits and the SVB stock price, whereas there were no pay incentives tied to sound risk management and the bank had no chief risk officer during a period when the bank was growing quickly.
But the Fed report also determined that it was partly to blame, too. The report noted that regulators were slow to recognize the problems at SVB and, once those problems were identified, did not effectively press SVB management to change its approach to the issues and lower the bank’s risk profile. A separate report by the FDIC similarly noted that its oversight was not as rigorous as it should have been. According to the Fed report, the passive approach was due in part to recent efforts to loosen regulation of banks, like SVB, with assets of less than $250 billion. As the news article linked above demonstrates, the report is sure to touch off a renewed banking regulation/deregulation debate.
While that never-ending debate rages, the key question to be addressed at this point is: who will be held accountable for the losses sustained by the taxpayer in insuring accounts above the previously identified $250,000 limit and otherwise addressing the rotten fruits of SVB’s mismanagement? The compensation of SVB’s executives soared during the years immediately before the collapse, as the bank followed its risky course, and the bank’s CEO also made millions in SVB stock sales over the past few years. Wil bank officers be required to contribute to cover the losses? And will the regulators who didn’t vigorously push for changes in bank practices after identifying problems keep their jobs?