During Tuesday’s Senate Banking Committee, Democrats and Republicans portrayed SVB executives as incompetent and greedy. They said that Becker chased risky, short-term profits to earn larger bonuses.
SVB bought large amounts of Treasury bonds that lost value when the Federal Reserve hiked interest rates, leaving the bank with massive unrealized losses.
Unlike other lenders, SVB didn’t hedge against the risk of rising interest rates.
“If you’d bought those hedges, that would have cut into your profits, wouldn’t it? If you’d made less money, that would have affected your bonus, wouldn’t it?” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) asked Becker.
Senators grilled Becker over his decision to sell $3.6 million in company shares roughly two weeks before SVB suffered a lightning fast bank run from its tech and venture capitalist depositors.
Becker said that he planned out the stock sales in January.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) questioned whether the Fed’s numerous warnings about the bank’s structural problems — which were not made public — drove his decision to sell.
Senators also criticized the bank’s decision to hand out bonuses to executives on the day of SVB’s collapse. Multiple lawmakers asked if Becker would give his $1.5 million bonus back, but he wouldn’t answer.
It was a relatively rare display of bipartisanship for much of the tense hearing, which also featured executives from the shuttered Signature Bank.
Senators are outraged at SVB in particular because it was the first bank to fail, setting off a banking crisis that forced regulators to take drastic moves such as protecting uninsured deposits.
“The fallout of this isn’t just Silicon Valley Bank going down,” Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) told Becker.
“It’s the fact that we’re going to have a lot of banks out there that will get the screws put to them because you guys didn’t react to the recommendations that were made by the Fed.”
Karl has the full story here.