Imagine, then, that you want to buy bonds today. You would want the newer bonds because they have a higher payout. So when SVB needed to sell bonds, to raise cash that it could use for its customers’ withdrawals, it could do so only for a discount, taking a loss.
The Downfall of Silicon Valley Bank
One of the most prominent lenders in the world of technology start-ups collapsed on March 10, forcing the U.S. government to step in.
The bank failed to follow basic financial advice: Diversify your portfolio. “It’s not fraud,” said Joseph Gagnon, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “But it’s an extremely risky, and obviously risky, strategy.”
In the past few weeks, venture capitalists and other wealthy customers on social media and in private chats started discussing concerns that SVB could no longer pay its depositors. Some began to move their money out of the bank, and the situation spiraled quickly. “Once you start asking, ‘Are we having a bank run?,’ it’s too late,” my colleague David Enrich, a business editor, said.
A regulatory failure
Financial regulations are supposed to stop these kinds of crises. But Silicon Valley Bank’s problems were not caught until it was too late — which many experts say was a result of insufficient oversight. (Here’s what to know about how your own money is covered.)
Under pressure from banks in 2018, Congress passed bipartisan legislation that Donald Trump signed into law shielding smaller banks, like SVB, from more stringent rules. The banks argued that they were so small that they posed little risk to the broader financial system.
SVB’s collapse and the aftermath suggest the banks’ claims were wrong: Even smaller bank failures can threaten the financial system as a whole, prompting some experts — but not all — to call for the federal government to get more involved.
To readers of this newsletter, the Federal Reserve’s involvement in containing the fallout of Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse may be puzzling. The Fed, after all, has been raising interest rates to slow the economy. An economic slowdown inherently involves businesses, including banks, failing.