(Washington) Exercise in contrition: U.S. banking regulators acknowledged through reports on Friday a role in the failures of several regional banks that rocked the financial system in March, and continue to have repercussions.
The Federal Reserve (Fed) and then the US Bank Deposit Agency (FDIC) published a report in quick succession on their approach to the bankruptcy of two institutions, Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and Signature Bank.
Above all, the two institutions underlined an essential point: the failure of the two banks was primarily the consequence of errors by the respective managements, which were unable to “manage their risks” for SVB, or to “develop and maintain risk management practices”. adequate risks” for Signature Bank.
But the reports quickly take the form of a mea culpa on the part of the two bodies, which admit to having their share of responsibility for the chain of bankruptcies which have shaken the American financial system and continue to have repercussions.
The highly anticipated Fed report on SVB set the tone, first admitting that “supervisors have not fully appreciated the extent of the bank’s vulnerabilities” as the bank grew “in size and complexity”.
But even more, even though “the vulnerabilities were identified”, its oversight body did not “react sufficiently to ensure that SVB had quickly addressed the issues” raised.
“The Federal Reserve failed to make the strong enough decisions that were needed,” Fed Vice Chairman Michael Barr acknowledged in a letter accompanying the report.
On the side of the FDIC, the agency that insures bank deposits up to a certain limit, she admits that “in retrospect” she “should have moved faster” and “had more effective communication with the management of Signature Bank”.
At issue this time, “complications in terms of resources relating to the personnel in charge of the examination” of the banks, which “affected the temporality and the quality” of the supervision of the establishment.
Signature Bank “could have been more measured in its growth and put in place the necessary risk management practices, the FDIC for its part should have better anticipated and been more energetic in its supervision”, further acknowledges the agency.
It now remains to prevent such a situation from happening again, while regional banks continue to be shaken, like the bank First Republic, whose action has lost more than 95% of its value in two months, and was still sinking on Wall Street on Friday.
The Fed report thus proposes a series of actions to be implemented by the American central bank, in particular by imposing a strengthening of reserves for medium-sized banks.
Until now, the United States imposed the application of the so-called “Basel III” rules only on its largest establishments, about fifteen in total.
“Basel III”, a wide range of international banking sector reforms, was initiated after the financial crisis of 2008-2009 in order to strengthen the soundness of banks. Many measures have been taken but some reforms still need to be finalized, especially in the United States.
But the failure of several regional banks, in the wake of the fall of SVB, and the difficulties that First Republic is now also going through, encourage it to “strengthen the resilience of the financial system and not only focus on specific risks” .
“After the Silicon Valley Bank failure, we need to strengthen Federal Reserve oversight and regulation based on what we’ve learned,” Barr said, adding that this report was “the first step in that process.” .
Proposals to this effect are planned for a later stage.
More broadly, the report nonetheless recalls that the US financial system remains “strong and resilient, with a high level of capital and liquidity”, adding that SVB was “an exception due to its highly concentrated business model”.