The 2008 crisis is a spectre.
The US authorities have taken control of all customer deposits after the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB). This is a flashback of 2008's banking collapse.
Let's begin with the quasi-bailout at SVB of customer deposits. The bank was a specialist tech bank with around $152bn of uninsured deposits. Before the intervention of the state, customers with deposits exceeding $250,000 were not eligible for their money back in the case of a deficit in assets.
The measure was announced by the regulators in a joint statement by Janet Yellen (US Treasury secretary), Jerome Powell (Federal Reserve chair) and Martin Gruenberg (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation chair).
Instead, the funds would come from a bank compens fund that is funded through a bank tax. Our bailout provided a blanket coverage of all liabilities of banks, including those of Anglo Irish Bank's unsecured bond holders. The Irish taxpayer was also covered.
SVB should have enough assets to cover most of this cost, so it is possible to hope that they do. Brian Lenihan's 2008 statement that the bank guarantee would not cost anything, stating that banks only had a liquidity problem and not a solvency problem in 2008 is still being heard.
SVB is in a strange position compared to Irish banks in 2008.It was not considered a bank that was "too large to fail" by regulators, which would have required additional regulatory scrutiny.
With the bank collapse in Ireland, saving bank clients wasn't an issue. Nama was the preferred option for property developers. They didn't have to worry if they could continue servicing their loans. Some people broke their banking covenants when property prices dropped.
The US authorities hope to stop the spread of contagion to other banks by paying all deposits. They will also hope that they will have enough cash to help many of these companies through the crisis.
SVB and its management made some basic mistakes, which suggests that not all banks have learned from the last crash. Despite being so busy with liquidity and credit risks after 2008, banks have not been able to see the risks of interest rates.
Bank profitability is improved by higher interest rates. However, many banks in the US have poured billions into long-term US securities. These are less valuable as interest rates rise.
This is what happened with SVB. SVB was forced to sell $91bn worth of customer deposits into long term securities, which have since fallen in value. The bank was forced to sell some of these bonds after a run on it. This led to a need for new capital. It failed to do so.
It is amazing that a bank that is solely focused on tech (tech) would put so much of its deposit money into one asset category, which is itself vulnerable to higher interest rates.
Rising interest rates made SVB's balance sheets vulnerable. Customers were also vulnerable. It is hard to believe that regulators didn't tap SVB on their shoulder and ask about the risk involved.
This has become political in some ways, as Republicans in the US are pushing for less regulation than more. The US authorities have made some progress in preventing a real contagion through their early interventions.
We are yet to see how severe the tech sector crisis will be, as Meta announces 11,000 more job cuts. Rapidly growing tech companies have taken on large amounts of equity at huge valuations. The borrowings that accompany this equity have been less discussed. It's a bit like boom-era property owners describing the size of their projects without knowing how much debt they had. Even banks weren't certain.
The parallels to our banking crash are fascinating in light of over-lending to one industry during boom years. When property developers couldn't pay their loans, what started as a liquidity problem became a solvency problem.
First, the exposure of Irish banks to the mortgage market is substantial. Our housing crisis problems can also be attributed to the fact we stopped building houses after the crash. The collapse of the housing market caused financial difficulties for builders. Banks were bankrupt. The State was bankrupt.
In the current climate, it would have been impossible to protect property developers after a crash such as ours. Silicon Valley is different. SVB's clients will not take down the US banking system or the exchequer.
However, this protection comes with a moral hazard due to the fact that bank deposit losses and tech profits are socialized while they are privatized. Although central bankers will be happy that they have at least a result for now, you get the feeling that this may just be the beginning.
Banks around the world will need to consider more than the potential benefits of higher interest rates. Banks around the world will need to consider how they expose their balance sheets and that of their customers to a new cycle with higher interest rates.