The Day

Yellen urges calm over bank turmoil

Treasury secretary says system ‘remains sound’


— Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen projected calm on Tuesday after recent regional bank collapses but told a gathering of bankers that additional rescue arrangemen­ts “could be warranted” if any new failures at smaller institutio­ns jeopardize financial stability.

Yellen, who made her remarks at the American Bankers Associatio­n, said that overall “the situation is stabilizin­g.”

“And the U.S. banking system remains sound,” Yellen said, drawing clear difference­s between recent events and the 2008 financial meltdown, which triggered trillions of dollars of financial losses globally.

“This is different from 2008,” she said. “2008 was a solvency crisis, rather what we’re seeing now is contagious bank runs.”

Yellen’s remarks come after a series of troubling bank developmen­ts this month.

Silicon Valley Bank, based in Santa Clara, Calif., failed on March 10 after depositors rushed to withdraw money amid anxiety over the bank’s health. It was the second-largest bank collapse in U.S. history. Regulators convened over the following weekend and announced that New York-based Signature Bank also had failed. They said that all depositors at both banks, including those holding uninsured funds, those exceeding $250,000, would be protected by federal deposit insurance.

And last week a third bank, San Francisco-based First Republic Bank, was fortified by $30 billion in funds raised by 11 of the biggest U.S. banks in an attempt to prevent it from collapsing.

The government is now determined to restore public confidence in the banking system and to prevent any more turmoil. The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission have launched investigat­ions into the Silicon Valley Bank collapse, and President Joe Biden has called on Congress to strengthen rules on regional banks and to impose tougher penalties on executives of failed banks.

Yellen said the government’s interventi­on was necessary to “protect the broader banking system” and more rescue efforts could be necessary, noting that the government is still closely monitoring the banking sector.

“Similar actions could be warranted if smaller institutio­ns suffer deposit runs that pose the risk of contagion,” she said.

When Yellen was asked by the associatio­n’s president, Rob Nichols, what policies need to be adjusted in light of recent events, she said, “I don’t want to speculate at this point on what those adjustment­s might be. What I’m focused on is stabilizin­g our system.”

Yellen faced the Senate Finance Committee last week and offered upbeat reassuranc­es to rattled bank depositors and investors that the U.S. banking system “remains sound” and Americans “can feel confident” about the safety of their deposits.

She will appear in front of congressio­nal panels twice more this week, in the Senate and the House, and will inevitably face more questions about the nature of the bank failures and the government’s effort to quell them.

“Let me be clear: The government’s recent actions have demonstrat­ed our resolute commitment to take the necessary steps to ensure that depositors’ savings and the banking system remain safe,” she said.

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