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Biden wants Congress to boost penalties for executives when midsize banks fail

A person enters the Signature Bank headquarters in New York on March 13.
Yuki Iwamura
A person enters the Signature Bank headquarters in New York on March 13.

President Biden on Friday urged Congress to pass legislation to increase the penalties on bank executives when mismanagement leads to bank failures.

"When banks fail due to mismanagement and excessive risk taking, it should be easier for regulators to claw back compensation from executives, to impose civil penalties, and to ban executives from working in the banking industry again," Biden said in a statement.

Regulators moved to guarantee deposits in Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank last weekend, using fees paid by banks as a backstop. Biden vowed to hold people accountable for the bank failures. But on Friday, he said the current law limits his administration's power to hold executives responsible.

Top executives from the banks were fired. But on Friday, Biden said the current law limits his administration's power to hold executives responsible in these kinds of events.

For example, Biden wants Congress to make it easier for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) to claw back compensation from midsize banks. Currently, the FDIC has this power only for the major Wall Street banks. The White House noted reports that the CEO of Silicon Valley Bank sold $3 million in shares before the bank failed.

"No one is above the law – and strengthening accountability is an important deterrent to prevent mismanagement in the future," Biden said in the statement.

Congress is divided on what actions to take after the bank failures. Some lawmakers have said regulators missed red flags. Others blame a Trump-era rollback of regulations for midsize banks, and have signed on to a Democrat-led bill to repeal those changes. It's likely congressional banking committees will hold hearings on the bank collapses; the Department of Justice has launched an investigation into what happened and the Federal Reserve is reviewing its oversight.

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