Billionaire and hedge fund manager Bill Ackman predicted an economic meltdown would follow Silicon Valley Bank's failure Friday without adequate intervention, the Conservative Brief reported. Ackman, who works for Pershing Square Capital Management, warned the government it had until Monday to "fix a-soon-to-be-irreversible mistake."
It quickly became apparent last week that SVB Financial Group was in trouble. Greg Becker, the company's CEO, had released a video message admitting it was an "incredibly difficult" two-day period prior to the bank's implosion.
The bank is America's 16th largest thanks to its position as the financial institution of choice for tech and startups. However, Ackman warned that left unaddressed, the problem will spread to those witnessing the collapse and could spark a run on smaller institutions.
He shared his lengthy analysis in a tweet Saturday, explaining that President Joe Biden's failure to react swiftly closed some off-ramps on the road to economic disaster. Ackman also provided a roadmap for the remaining solutions that he also claimed were time-sensitive.
"The gov’t has about 48 hours to fix a-soon-to-be-irreversible mistake," Ackman began. "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."
"Absent @jpmorgan @citi or @BankofAmerica acquiring SVB before the open on Monday, a prospect I believe to be unlikely, or the gov’t guaranteeing all of SVB’s deposits, the giant sucking sound you will hear will be the withdrawal of substantially all uninsured deposits from all but the ‘systemically important banks’ (SIBs)," Ackman warned. "These funds will be transferred to the SIBs, US Treasury (UST) money market funds and short-term UST."
"There is already pressure to transfer cash to short-term UST and UST money market accounts due to the substantially higher yields available on risk-free UST vs. bank deposits. These withdrawals will drain liquidity from community, regional and other banks and begin the destruction of these important institutions," Ackman continued, predicting a domino effect.
"The increased demand for short-term UST will drive short rates lower complicating the @federalreserve’s efforts to raise rates to slow the economy," Ackman added. "Already thousands of the fastest growing, most innovative venture-backed companies in the U.S. will begin to fail to make payroll next week."
Ackman went on to explain that a government takeover would have been a difficult but adequate solution even with the bank's assets so deeply discounted in a sell-off. "This approach would have minimized the risk of any gov’t losses, and created the potential for substantial profits from the rescue," Ackman said.
"Instead, I think it is now unlikely any buyer will emerge to acquire the failed bank." Ackman also explained that SVB's investment strategy was mishandled and that regulators should have known and intervened sooner.
The bank didn't diversify outside of the tech sector and "invested short-term deposits in longer-term, fixed-rate assets," and that strategy blew up when interest rates increased. Now the value of those long-term investments automatically plummets along with increased interest rates.
Without word that these investors would be protected, Ackman further predicted that the "gov’t’s failure to guarantee SVB deposits are vast and profound and need to be considered and addressed before Monday. Otherwise, watch out below," Ackman concluded.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told viewers of CBS's "Face the Nation" Saturday that there would be no bailout. Instead, the FDIC, Federal Reserve, and Treasury Department said in a statement Sunday that depositors would recoup all of their losses, the Associated Press reported.
This kind of failure should cause a correction in the market, even if some businesses suffer losses. Instead, investors and institutions alike will take more risks knowing the consequences will be wiped out by the government -- and that's always a dangerous precedent to set.