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As Top Regulator Cites Mismanagement as Root of Bank Failures, Senators Also Blame Regulators

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Mar 29, 2023

iStock-487808414 Federal Reserve Washington DC

In a Senate hearing, a top banking regulator blamed the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank on its disregard for federal warnings, while senators also the blamed federal regulators, Reuters and others reported.

In the hearing, held Tuesday before the U.S. Senate’s Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on Recent Bank Failures and the Federal Regulatory Response, Federal Reserve Board Vice Chairman for Supervision Michael Barr said that Silicon Valley Bank went months without a chief risk officer, He also criticized how the bank modeled interest rate risk, which he said "was not at all aligned with reality." He added that federal supervisors had raised such issues with bank management, but the warnings were not heeded.

"The risks were there, the regulators were pointing them out and the bank didn’t take action," he told the senators.

The hearing also covered the failure of Silvergate Bank and Signature Bank.

Committee members agreed with Barr that the banks had been mismanaged and former executives should be held responsible, Reuters reported, but questioned how banks, including Signature Bank and Credit Suisse, could collapse with regulators monitoring them.

Barr replied that federal supervisors had been raising issues with Silicon ValleyBank directly in months prior to February, when he first learned of its interest rate risk issues.

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) blamed regulators for the “failure of Silicon Valley Bank, Signature Bank and the general turmoil in the banking sector.”

His fellow Montanan, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), agreed. "It looks like regulators knew the problem, but no one dropped the hammer," he said.

In his prepared testimony, Barr said that the Fed would “take an unflinching look at the supervision and regulation of SVB before its failure” and report back in May.

Barr was one of three witnesses who appeared before the committee.

In his prepared testimony, another witness, Martin J. Gruenberg, chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), said that his agency would review the deposit insurance system and that its chief risk officer would review its supervision of Signature Bank, and also report back in May.

In her prepared testimony, the third witness, Nellie Liang, under secretary for domestic finance at Treasury, said that "the recent developments are very different from those of the Global Financial Crisis. Back then, many financial institutions came under stress because they held low creditquality assets. This was not at all the catalyst for recent events. Our financial system is significantly stronger than it was 15 years ago. This is in large part due to post-crisis reforms for stronger capital and liquidity requirements."



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