Showing posts from 2023

The Peston effect

The last week or so has seen some of the worst bank communications since 2007, when the Bank of England started a bank run by leaking news of Northern Rock's emergency liquidity request to the journalist Robert Peston. Then as now, awful communications have frightened the horses, triggered stampedes and caused banks to fail.  Three banks in particular have shown an extraordinary insensitivity to popular fears: Silicon Valley Bank, Credit Suisse, and Wells Fargo. Two of these have paid a heavy price for their management's inept handling of vital communications. But the third seems to have got away with it - this time. Next time, it might not be so lucky.  Exhibit 1: Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) In the wake of Silvergate Bank's failure, Silicon Valley Bank decided to restructure its balance sheet.  SVB's full-year accounts released in February revealed that it was backing highly volatile uninsured deposits with long-dated government securities that were falling in value and

Silvergate Bank - a post mortem

Silvergate Bank died yesterday. Its parent, Silvergate Capital Corporation, posted an obituary notice   (click for larger image): Silvergate Bank bled to death after announcing significant delay to its 10-K full-year accounts and warning that it might not be able to continue as a going concern. We will never know whether it could have recovered from the bank run after the failure of FTX. The bank run after the announcement was far, far worse. The exit of its major crypto customers sealed Silvergate's fate.  But the agent of death was a government agency. On 7th March, Bloomberg reported that Silvergate Bank had been in talks with FDIC about a potential resolution "since last week". Many of us had expected FDIC to go into the bank last Friday with a view to resolving it over the weekend. We now know that FDIC did indeed go into the bank, but a resolution over the weekend wasn't possible. Presumably, this means there was no buyer.  Why do I say there was no buyer? Beca

Lessons from the disaster engulfing Silvergate Capital

This is the story of a bank that put all its eggs into an emerging digital basket, believing that providing non-interest-bearing deposit and payment services to crypto exchanges and platforms would be a nice little earner, while completely failing to understand the extraordinary risks involved with such a venture.  On 1st March, Silvergate Capital Corporation announced that filing of its audited full-year accounts would be significantly delayed , and warned that its financial position had materially changed for the worse since the publication of its provisional results on January 17th, when it reported a full-year loss of nearly $1bn. The stock price promptly tanked, falling 60% during the day:   Platforms, exchanges and other banks halted or re-routed transactions on Silvergate's SEN payments network, and customers that had other banking relationships removed their deposits. In response, Silvergate halted the SEN network. A banner on its website now reads: Effective immediately

WASPI Campaign's legal action is morally wrong

I haven't written a post about WASPI for a very long time. I felt I had said everything I wanted to say, and it had become evident that the WASPI campaign and its offshoots had neither the widespread support nor the legal arguments that they claimed. Labour's proposed £58bn payment to WASPI women contributed to its disastrous defeat at the 2019 General Election. And in 2020, the hardline Back to 60 group's bid to overturn their state pension age rises failed in the Court of Appeal. The Government had no intention of compensating WASPI women for their lost pensions, and there was neither legal nor political means to force it to do so. The campaign seemed, in short, dead in the water.  But it seems it isn't, quite. Some years ago, WASPI campaign received legal advice that a challenge to the legislation would almost certainly fail but that there might be a case for maladministration on the part of the DWP. Women would have to make individual maladministration claims and

Proof of reserves is proof of nothing

Proof of reserves is all the rage on crypto platforms. The idea is that if the platform can prove to its customers' satisfaction that their deposits are fully matched by equivalent assets on the platform, their deposits are safe. And if the mechanism they use to prove this uses crypto technology, that's even better.  Crypto tech solutions have surely got to be much more reliable than traditional financial accounts and audits - after all, FTX passed a U.S. GAAP audit .  No, they aren't. Proof of reserves as done by exchanges like Binance does not prove that customer deposits are safe. It is smoke and mirrors to fool prospective punters into relinquishing their money, just like claims that exchanges and platforms are "audited" or have "insurance". There are no audits in the crypto world, there is no insurance, and as I shall explain, proof of reserves proves absolutely nothing. The biggest crypto exchange, Binance, uses a Merkle tree proof of reserves. H

Binance and its stablecoins

Yesterday, the SEC issued a Wells notice to the stablecoin issuer Paxos , warning it that the SEC intended to take legal action against it for issuing an unregistered security. The security in question is the fully-reserved stablecoin BUSD (Binance USD), which Paxos issues expressly for use on the Binance crypto exchange. The Wells notice doesn't apply to Paxos's other fully-reserved stablecoin, USDP, which it issues for use on its own platform.  A few hours later, the New York Department of Financial Services (NY DFS) ordered Paxos to stop minting BUSD. In a consumer alert published on its website, the NY DFS said there were "several unresolved issues related to Paxos’ oversight of its relationship with Binance in regard to Paxos-issued BUSD." It didn't specify what these issues were, but it went on to clarify that Paxos's BUSD and Binance's coin of the same name are not the same thing, and that it only regulates Paxos's coin, not Binance's: