hat in the world just happened?
On Friday, Silicon Valley Bank collapsed and was taken over by regulators, and then on Sunday regulators swooped in and shut down New York’s Signature Bank. In a desperate attempt to prop up faith in our rapidly failing banking system, the Federal Reserve unveiled an emergency plan late on Sunday that is absolutely staggering. All of the depositors at Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank will be protected, and all of them will have access to their money right away. They aren’t calling this a “bail out”, but that is essentially what it is. But will it be enough to stop the bank runs that are already happening?
Late last week, huge lines at Silicon Valley Bank quickly made headlines all over the nation.
The panic at Silicon Valley Bank quickly spread to other banks in California. In particular, First Republic Bank was hit really hard…
Dozens of customers lined up outside of a First Republic Bank in southern California on Saturday eager to withdraw their funds in the wake of the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. There had been fears following SVB’s demise for First Republic’s future when analysts pointed out the similarities between the estimated value of their assets versus the actual value.
As news of what was unfolding in California spread like wildfire on social media, soon there were lines at various banks all over the nation.
But most of those that have been pulling money out of U.S. banks over the past few days never stood in any line.
And that is because we now live in an era where most banking is done on phones and computers…
Question: How did $42 billion get withdrawn Friday alone without thousands in line? Answer: your phone! This is not the Bailey Savings and Loan anymore. This should scare the hell of bankers and regulators worldwide.
We have never seen anything quite like what we witnessed on Friday.
When it became clear that Silicon Valley Bank was collapsing, unsecured depositors engaged in a mad scramble to get their money out while they still could.
And this wasn’t just happening in the United States.
Silicon Valley Bank had branches all over the planet, and so the panic that we were watching was truly global…
Startup founders in California’s Bay Area are panicking about access to money and paying employees. Fears of contagion have reached Canada, India and China. In the UK, SVB’s unit is set to be declared insolvent, has already ceased trading and is no longer taking new customers. On Saturday, the leaders of roughly 180 tech companies sent a letter calling on UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to intervene. “The loss of deposits has the potential to cripple the sector and set the ecosystem back 20 years,” they said in the letter seen by Bloomberg. “Many businesses will be sent into involuntary liquidation overnight.” This is just the beginning. SVB had branches in China, Denmark, Germany, India, Israel and Sweden, too. Founders are warning that the bank’s failure could wipe out startups around the world without government intervention. SVB’s joint venture in China, SPD Silicon Valley Bank Co., was seeking to calm local clients overnight by reminding them that operations have been independent and stable.
Of course not everyone that had money in SVB got burned.
For example, Peter Thiel and his minions got their money out in time…
Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund had no money with Silicon Valley Bank as of Thursday morning as the bank descended into chaos, according to a person familiar with the matter. Founders Fund withdrew millions from SVB, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing private information. It joined other venture funds that took dramatic steps to limit exposure to the now-failed financial institution. Founders Fund also advised its portfolio companies that there was no downside to moving their money away from SVB, even if the risk was low.
And a number of key SVB executives conveniently sold off shares in the bank just last month…
But countless others did not pull the plug in time.
Apparently, that even included Harry and Meghan.
Oh the humanity!
There was no way that the Federal Reserve was going to allow Harry and Meghan to lose millions.
So now they have stepped in with mountains of fresh cash.
But is the Fed prepared to do this for all of the other banks that will soon be in trouble too?
According to CNN, U.S. banks “were sitting on $620 billion in unrealized losses” as of the end of last year…
Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse last week sent tingles of panic down investors’ spines as it highlighted a larger problem across the banking sector: The widening gap between the value large lenders place on the bonds they hold and what they’re actually worth on the market. SVB’s downfall was tied, in part, to the plunge in the value of bonds it acquired during boom times, when it had a lot of customer deposits coming in and needed somewhere to park the cash. But SVB isn’t the only institution with that issue. US banks were sitting on $620 billion in unrealized losses (assets that have decreased in price but haven’t been sold yet) at the end of 2022, according to the FDIC.
This crisis is far from over.
As I have been arguing for years, our deeply flawed system simply cannot survive without artificial support.
What has transpired over the past several days is clear evidence of this fact.
The Federal Reserve has decided to ride to the rescue once again, and the financial community is cheering.
But will it be enough to stop the wave of panic that has now been unleashed?
We shall see.