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Laxity or Unprofessionalism? How Directors and Executives Ran SVB Aground

© AP Photo / Jeff ChiuA food delivery worker enters Silicon Valley Bank in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, March 10, 2023.
A food delivery worker enters Silicon Valley Bank in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, March 10, 2023.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 16.03.2023
Just one member of Silicon Valley Bank's board of directors was a career investment banker, while the others included former Democratic donors and one Obama administration official, according to western media.
Tom King, 63, was the only member of the SVB board of directors with considerable investment banking experience, according to the Daily Mail.
Earlier this week, SVB Financial Group (SIVB.O) and two top executives, Chief Executive Greg Becker and Chief Financial Officer Daniel Beck, were sued by shareholders accused of concealing how rising interest rates would leave the Silicon Valley Bank vulnerable to a crisis. SVB collapsed last Friday resulting in the federal government intervention.
The media argued that the bank was largely navigated by people with strong Democratic affiliations and equity champions rather than cool-headed financial professionals.
One example is Mary J. Miller, who used to be a former Obama administration official who served as undersecretary for domestic finance at the US Department of Treasury. She joined the SVB board in 2015. She also ran in the 2020 Baltimore mayoral race as a Democrat but was defeated. Apparently, she remained focused on political struggles rather than on financial affairs.
A property managment representative gestures while asking reporters to clear the entrance area to Silicon Valley Bank in Santa Clara, Calif. - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.03.2023
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Kate Mitchell, 64, who had served on the SVB board since 2010, donated $50,000 to Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential run. She later told the US press how deeply she grieved when Donald Trump came out on top. Mitchell even traveled to Japan and prayed at a Shinto shrine in Kyoto.
"I prayed for me and us to get beyond our grieving and shock and to figure out how to engage and listen to what happened and come back together," she told the US media December 2016.
Garen K. Staglin, 78, lives less than 15 minutes from former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's estate and is known for hefty donations to the Democratic Party. In 2020, he donated $10,000, to the Biden Victory Fund and in 2016 he gave $54,000 to Hillary Clinton's fund, in addition to $25,000 which he donated to the fund a year before. Likewise, he supported then-President Barack Obama in 2011 with a $35,800 donation.
When introducing Staglin to the board of directors in 2012, SVB President Greg Becker said: "His experience and passions for winemaking, technology, investing and philanthropy, align perfectly with our strategy."
Customers and bystanders form a line outside a Silicon Valley Bank branch location - Sputnik International, 1920, 14.03.2023
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Western media also singled out Chief Operations Officer Phil Cox, who sits on the governing board for NextGen Cyber Talent, a nonprofit organization that "provides a platform to increase diversity and inclusion in [the] cybersecurity sector."
For her part, Jay Ersapah, the UK-based head of financial risk management for SVB in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, was known for pushing ahead with a vast variety of LGBTQ initiatives including a month-long pride campaign and a new blog raising mental health awareness for queer youth, apparently instead of scrupulously assessing potential risks of the western central banks' aggressive rate hikes.
Judging from the California-based bank website, its leadership was promoting a "culture of inclusion" and creating "equity in hiring, performance management, benefits, supplier diversity, donations and volunteering." The bank reported its "workforce diversity metrics" to its employees and board, and annually published the data on its website.
At the same time, however, SVB executives and the board of directors appeared to be "okay" with the fact that the financial institution operated without a chief risk officer (CRO) between April 2022 and January 2023.
Former FTX chief executive Sam Bankman-Fried leaves Manhattan federal court, New York, January 3, 2023 - Sputnik International, 1920, 05.03.2023
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The SVB collapse evokes strong memories of the FTX crypto-currency exchange crisis on November 8, when traders withdrew a whopping $6 billion in crypto tokens from the platform in just 72 hours. FTX's founder, entrepreneur Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF), was also known for generous donations to the Democrats and also appeared to completely overlook the looming crisis for his platform.
SBF was one of just a handful of donors who spent over $10 million on Joe Biden's campaign in 2020, and spent around $38 million on the Democratic Party's midterms, being second only to liberal American-Hungarian tycoon George Soros.
John Ray III, the new CEO of FTX, who took over the crypto exchange after its collapse, stated in court documents on November 17: "Never in my career have I seen such a complete failure of corporate controls and such a complete absence of trustworthy financial information as occurred here."
Eventually, SBF was charged by prosecutors for the Southern District of New York with wire fraud, wire fraud conspiracy, securities fraud, securities fraud conspiracy, and money laundering.
Time will tell what was behind the SVB collapse and why Democratic mega-donors, a former Obama official and venture capitalists had their head in the clouds amid soaring inflation and looming recession in the US.
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