Former First Republic CEO Blames Failure on Other Banks’ Collapse, Says Regulators Didn’t Raise Warnings

Former First Republic CEO Blames Failure on Other Banks’ Collapse, Says Regulators Didn’t Raise Warnings
People walk by a First Republic Bank office in San Francisco on May 1, 2023. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Former First Republic CEO Michael Roffler told House lawmakers on May 16 that the California bank fell victim to the widespread panic caused by the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank on March 10 and Signature Bank two days later.

The events that unfolded as a result were beyond First Republic’s control, he said.

“No one at First Republic could have predicted the collapse of Silicon Valley and Signature, the speed at which it happened, or the impact it had on the banking industry,” Roffler told the House Subcommittees on Financial Institutions and Monetary Policy and Oversight and Investigations.

These were the first public remarks made by the former chief executive since regulators seized First Republic on May 1, marking the nation’s second-largest bank failure since the 2008 financial crisis. JPMorgan Chase acquired the majority of First Republic’s operations.

Roffler was joined by former Silicon Valley Bank CEO Greg Becker and former Signature Bank Chairman Scott Shay, who testified on May 16 before the Senate Banking Committee. Regulators seized Signature Bank on March 12.

The three have largely avoided taking responsibility for their own banks’ failures and blamed events they said were out of their control.

“First Republic was contaminated overnight by the contagion that spread from the unprecedented failures of those banks,” Roffler said. “Over the course of the ensuing weeks, over $100 billion in deposits were withdrawn from the bank.”

Roffler assured lawmakers that prior to the chaos in March, the bank was in a solid financial position, with no regulators expressing concern over its strategy, liquidity, or management.

“First Republic’s financial position and strategy were regularly reviewed by our regulators, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC),” he said. “Neither regulator expressed concern regarding First Republic’s strategy, liquidity, or management performance. Just the opposite.”

At the start of its difficulties, 11 large U.S. banks infused First Republic with $30 billion, although the bank ultimately was seized by the FDIC and sold to JPMorgan Chase on May 1.

“Despite herculean efforts by my incredible colleagues at First Republic … investor and depositor confidence never recovered,” Roffler said.

He said First Republic had communicated to investors that the Federal Reserve’s efforts to combat inflation would make 2023 a challenging year.

Roffler also blamed media—both traditional and social—along with technological advancements that enable depositors to withdraw funds almost instantly, for exacerbating the situation.

He said First Republic on March 9 experienced a surge in deposits from clients. Yet, the landscape drastically shifted the following day, when regulators seized Silicon Valley Bank.

That abrupt turn of events sparked a “run on First Republic,” compounded by negative attention from short sellers and social media platforms. Depositors withdrew $40 billion on March 13 alone and more than $100 billion in the subsequent weeks, ultimately outweighing March’s $30 billion injection, Roffler said.

From The Epoch Times

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