“SVB’s failure is a textbook case of mismanagement,” he said, while adding that the “failure demands a thorough review of what happened, including the Federal Reserve’s oversight of the bank.”
He noted that Fed supervisors spotted a range of problems in late 2021 and throughout 2022, even rating the bank’s management as deficient, which barred it from growing by acquiring other companies. And he said that supervisors told board officials in mid-February that they were actively engaged with SVB on its interest rate risk.
“As it turned out, the full extent of the bank’s vulnerability was not apparent until the unexpected bank run on March 9,” Mr. Barr added. “In our review, we are focusing on whether the Federal Reserve’s supervision was appropriate for the rapid growth and vulnerabilities of the bank.”
Yet Mr. Barr is also likely to face questions — especially from Democrats — about whether changes to Fed regulation and supervision in recent years could have paved the way for the implosion. Congress passed a law that made midsize bank oversight less onerous in 2018, and Mr. Barr’s predecessor, Randal K. Quarles, an appointee of President Donald J. Trump, had carried out and in some cases built upon those changes in 2019.
Mr. Barr, a Biden appointee, started in his role in mid-2022. He has been carrying out a “holistic review” of bank regulation, but that has yet to be completed.
And questions could arise about issues that Mr. Barr did not address in his remarks. For instance, while he pointed out that supervisors were aware of risks at Silicon Valley Bank, he did not note that the group of Fed Board staff members and supervisors overseeing the bank gave it a satisfactory rating when it came to liquidity in 2022 — even after a range of problems, including some with liquidity risk management, had already been flagged.
Mr. Barr did suggest that the Fed’s internal review, which he is leading and is set to conclude by May 1, was assessing whether supervisors could “distinguish risks that pose a material threat to a bank’s safety and soundness” and whether “supervisors have the tools to mitigate threats.”