The U.S. government “did the right thing” for America by swooping in to rescue Silicon Valley Bank’s deposit holders, according to billionaire investor Bill Ackman, who argued failing to act would have plunged the country into a 1930s-style bank run.
In a tweet on Sunday night, the legendary investor shared his thoughts on the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and how the U.S. government had responded to the crisis.
“Our government did the right thing for the country,” he said. “We are very fortunate it did so. Importantly, our gov’t has sent a message that depositors can trust the banking system. Without this confidence, we are left with three or possibly four too-big-to-fail banks where the taxpayer is explicitly on the hook, and our national system of community and regional banks is toast.”
Last week, it was revealed that SVB—a key lender to startups—was scrambling to raise funds to plug a near $2 billion hole in its finances.
News of the largest failure of a U.S. bank since the 2008 financial crisis sparked a rush of deposit withdrawals, with SVB’s troubles also inflicting collateral damage on stablecoins, payrolls and global banking stocks.
Trading of SVB shares was halted on Friday after plummeting 60% a day earlier, with staff reportedly asked to work from home as the failing lender sought a buyer.
On Monday morning, it emerged that banking giant HSBC had bought SVB’s U.K. arm for just £1 ($1.21), rescuing many British tech companies that had feared collapse if a rescue deal had not been made.
However, its U.S. parent company failed to find a buyer. On Sunday, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Federal Reserve, and Treasury Department announced that all SVB depositors—as well as the depositors of Signature Bank, which also collapsed over the weekend—would be protected without any losses to taxpayers thanks to the invoking of a “systemic risk exception.”
President Joe Biden touted the regulatory intervention as a move that would “protect workers, small businesses, taxpayers, and our financial system.”
Red flags missed?
Although regulators are facing questions about whether red flags were missed when it came to SVB, Ackman argued that the government response to SVB’s collapse was the correct one.
Ackman—who founded Pershing Square Capital Management in 2004 and also serves as its CEO—noted on Sunday night that the regulators’ intervention was “not a bailout in any form,” pointing out that the bondholders and investors who “did not adequately oversee” SVB would bear the consequences of its failure.
The downfall of Silicon Valley Bank would act as a “massive wake-up call” to people in charge of banks across America, he added—but he warned more banks are likely to fail even though regulators stepped in.
“Had the [FDIC], U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve not intervened today, we would have had a 1930s bank run continuing first thing Monday causing enormous economic damage and hardship to millions,” Ackman said. “More banks will likely fail despite the intervention, but we now have a clear roadmap for how the government will manage them.”
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