Silicon Valley Bank failure should not lead to contagion ‘as long as we remain calm,’ says Jefferies Financial CEO 

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The best solution for resolving the failure of SVB Financial Group’s Silicon Valley Bank “would be a merger occurring today,” said Jefferies Financial Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer Rich Handler, who said he doesn’t see a repeat of the 2008 global financial crisis emerging from the past week’s events.

“In 2008, almost the entire financial system was over-leveraged and filled with mis-marked complex illiquid assets,” Handler and Jefferies President Brian Friedman said in a letter to clients and employees of their New York-based investment bank. “This is not the case today. Our sense of the range of institutions under scrutiny is that any issues are finite and idiosyncratic – in other words, they don’t threaten the whole system and should not lead to endless contagion, as long as we remain calm.”

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. kicked off an auction process late Saturday for Silicon Valley Bank, with final bids due by Sunday afternoon, according to people familiar with the matter. The FDIC is aiming for a swift deal, but a winner may not be known until late Sunday, according to one person, who asked to not be identified because the matter isn’t public. No final decision has been made and it’s possible that no deal will be reached, said the people.

“The best solution would be a merger occurring today (and we should all be thrilled if it happens and in our dreams no past problem should haunt any rescuer), but more is needed,” Handler and Friedman wrote. “Short of an outright stabilizing rescue which would border on the miraculous, there needs to be a clear process of how people beyond the $250,000 insurance threshold will have access to their cash.”

Deposits are insured by the FDIC up to at least $250,000 per depositor, per insured bank, per ownership category. At Silicon Valley Bank, north of 93% of the bank’s deposits are uninsured.

“When we do the math (and we acknowledge we are on the outside looking in and could be wrong), it appears realistic that any impairment of the deposits should be fairly modest,” Handler and Friedman said.

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