As Silicon Valley Bank concerns grow, Yellen says she has been ‘working all weekend with our banking regulators to design appropriate policies’ to address depositors

‘I’ve been working all weekend with our banking regulators to design appropriate policies to address the situation.’

— Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen

That is Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, speaking on Sunday on “Face the Nation,” about the federal government’s plans to possibly stem the damage of the stunning collapse of Silicon Valley Bank
which was taken over by Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. on Friday.

“We want to make sure that the troubles that exist at one bank don’t create contagion to others that are sound,” Yellen said in the “Face the Nation” interview on CBS. “We are concerned about depositors and are focused on trying to meet their needs,” she said.

SVB, which has built a reputation of catering to start-ups and early-stage companies over its 40 years in existence, was shut down after getting hit by what many are describing as a wave of depositors withdrawing their money over a very short period, resulting in the second-largest bank failure in U.S. history, behind the demise of Washington Mutual in 2008.

Some are concerned that depositors could be the most harmed by SVB’s implosion because the most of the bank’s deposits, greater than 90%, are uninsured.

The FDIC insures deposits up to $250,000.

The FDIC said that SVB had about $209 billion in total assets and about $175.4 billion in total deposits as of the end of December but that it was unclear how much the bank had on its balance sheet by Friday. Deposit holders would be able to withdraw up to $250,000 on Monday, the FDIC said. For those with more than that deposited, the FDIC provided a hotline number to call.

The problems for SVB come as the Federal Reserve is raising interest rates to combat inflation. Higher rates can make shifting money out of plain-vanilla deposits and into higher interest-bearing, but liquid, investments more compelling.

Yellen said that the Fed wouldn’t be staging bail outs of financial institutions similar to what was done for many of the largest banks back in 2008-09, but she did say that regulators were discussing plans to design policies that make sense without providing further detail.

Her comments come as some have called on the government to insure all deposits to mitigate the risk of contagion to other banks and to help avert what could be a hit to investor confidence and sentiment.

The FDIC said Friday that customers will have full access to their insured deposits no later than Monday morning and that it hadn’t yet determined the total amount of uninsured deposits. Those borrowers will get an advance dividend within the next week, the agency said, and uninsured depositors would receive a “receivership certificate” that allows them to recoup additional payments as the FDIC sells off the bank’s assets.

Bill Ackman, the billionaire founder and CEO of the hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management, on Saturday, speaking on Twitter said that “by allowing SVB Financial to fail without protecting all depositors, the world has woken up to what an uninsured deposit is—an unsecured illiquid claim on a failed bank.”

The abrupt collapse into receivership of the bank, a unit of SVB Financial Group, the parent company, has left hundreds of start-up businesses scrambling to make payroll and wondering whether they will be forced to lay off staff if money held by the bank is frozen or even lost.

Yellen, on “Face the Nation,” said that the “goal—always—of supervision and regulation is to make sure that contagion can’t occur.”

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