Big names in Silicon Valley and the financial sector are publicly calling for the federal government to push another bank to take over the assets and liabilities of Silicon Valley Bank after the financial institution collapsed on Friday.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) will cover up to $250,000 per depositor and may be able to begin paying those depositors as early as Monday.
But the vast majority of SVB’s clients were businesses that had more than that on deposit with the bank. As of December, more than 95% of the bank’s deposits were uninsured, according to regulatory filings. Many of those contributors are startups, and many are worried they won’t be able to make payroll this month, which could in turn trigger a widespread wave of disruptions and layoffs in the tech industry.
Investors are concerned that these setbacks could erode confidence in the banking sector, particularly mid-sized banks with less than $250 billion in deposits. These banks are not considered “too big to fail” and do not have to undergo regular stress tests or other safeguards introduced after the 2008 financial crisis.
Venture capitalist and former tech executive David Sachs called on the federal government to force another bank to buy SVB’s assets. writes on Twitter“Where’s Powell? Where’s Yellen? Stop this crisis NOW. Announce that all depositors will be safe. Put SVB in one of the top 4 banks. Do it before Monday’s open or contagion will begin and the crisis will spread.”
Vice President Mark Suster agreed, tweeting: “I suspect that’s what they’re working on. I am waiting for statements by Sunday. Let’s see. I really hope so, otherwise Monday will be brutal.”
Investor Bill Ackman made a similar argument in a long tweetwriting: “The government has about 48 hours to correct what will soon be an irreversible mistake. @SVB_Financial fail without protecting all depositors, the world realized what an uninsured deposit is – an unsecured, illiquid claim against a bank-to-bank. Absent @jpmorgan @citi or @BankofAmerica acquisition of SVB before Monday’s opening, a prospect I think is unlikely, or the government not guaranteeing all SVB deposits, the giant sound you will hear will be the withdrawal of virtually all uninsured deposits from all but ‘systemically important’ banks (SIBs).’
Test partner Eric Vishria wrote“If SVB depositors are not made whole, then corporate boards will have to insist that their companies use two or more of the BIG four banks exclusively. This will crush the smaller banks. And compound the too-big-to-fail problem.”
Since its founding nearly 40 years ago, SVB has become a funding hub for the technology industry, especially for startups and the venture capitalists that invest in them. The firm was known for providing banking services to early-stage startups that would have struggled to get banking services elsewhere before they had stable cash flow. But the firm itself has faced cash flow problems this year as startup funding ran out and its own assets locked up in long-term bonds.
The company surprised investors on Wednesday with news that it needed to raise $2.25 billion to shore up its balance sheet and that it had sold all of its available-for-sale bonds at a loss of $1.8 billion. Reassurances from bank executives weren’t enough to stop the run, and depositors withdrew more than $42 billion by the end of the day Thursday, creating the second-largest bank failure in U.S. history.
Many in the tech community accused VCs of fueling the flight, because after SVB’s statement on Wednesday, many of them told portfolio companies to put their money in safer places.
“It was VC-fueled hysteria,” Ryan Falvey, a fintech investor at Restive Ventures, told CNBC on Friday. “This will go down as one of the best times the industry has cut its nose off out of spite.”
Observers find it ironic that some venture capitalists with known libertarian free-market attitudes are now calling for a bailout. For example, reactions to Sax’s tweet included statements such as “I’m sorry sir. Suddenly the government is the answer?!?” and “We capitalists want socialism!“
Some politicians opposed any aid, including Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. chirping“If there is an attempt to use taxpayer money to bail out Silicon Valley Bank, the American people can count on me to be there to fight it.”
But financier and former Trump communications director Anthony Scaramucci argued“This is not a political decision to save SVB. Don’t make the Lehman mistake. It’s not about rich or poor who benefits, it’s about stopping the spread of the infection and protecting the system. Heal the depositors or expect many tragic unintended consequences.”
— Hugh Son and Ari Levy contributed to this story.