SVB Financial Group, the former owner of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), is inching closer to obtaining approval for the sale of its investment banking branch. However, the process has hit a roadblock as concerns arose regarding the release of liabilities stemming from SVB's collapse.
In a recent court hearing, Manhattan U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Martin Glenn expressed skepticism about granting broad legal protections to the prospective buyers led by former CEO Jeff Leerink and backed by Baupost company funds.
Silicon Valley Bank's bankruptcy in March sent shockwaves through the U.S. banking sector, triggering the most severe banking crisis in 15 years. As a result, regional lender First Citizens BancShares stepped in and acquired the insolvent bank with the intervention of U.S. regulators. SVB Financial, which previously controlled Silicon Valley Bank, is now seeking to sell its remaining assets as part of the bankruptcy process.
During the court hearing, Judge Martin Glenn criticized SVB Financial for a provision in the sale contract that aimed to shield Leerink and other insiders from any liability arising from Silicon Valley Bank's collapse. The judge expressed his disbelief that such a provision had been included without proper explanation or justification. He sternly warned SVB Financial's counsel, stating, "You're releasing them from everything”.
In response to the judge's concerns, SVB Financial attorney James Bromley assured the court that the liability releases would be removed from the contract by the following day. Judge Glenn was expected to review the revised arrangement and potentially accept the transaction once satisfied with the modifications.
The court session also witnessed Judge Glenn admonishing the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) for its conduct. The judge expressed his refusal to let the agency prevent SVB Financial from accessing information regarding the $2 billion bank account seizure. He sternly warned the FDIC, stating, "Play by the rules or risk contempt."
In response, the FDIC attorney acknowledged that SVB Financial had requested excessive information and had not followed proper procedures for record requests. However, he assured the court that the dispute would be resolved with the corporation outside of the courtroom.
As SVB Financial navigates through the bankruptcy proceedings, the fate of its remaining assets and the future of Silicon Valley Bank continue to hang in the balance.