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Fed's Barr says first learned of risks at SVB weeks before it failed

Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on "Recent Bank Failures and the Federal Regulatory Response" in Washington

(Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Reserve's head of banking supervision said Tuesday he was first made aware of the interest rate risk-related issues at Silicon Valley Bank in mid-February, just weeks before its failure.

Fed Vice Chairman for Supervision Michael Barr told the Senate Banking Committee that Fed staff made a presentation to the central bank's board in mid-February in which staff indicated they were following up with SVB on risk related to rising interest rates.

"The staff highlighted the interest-rate risk that was present at Silicon Valley Bank and indicated that they were in the middle of a further review," Barr said.

"I believe that is the first time that I was told about interest-rate risk at Silicon Valley Bank."

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Supervisory staff at the Fed had previously raised serious concerns over SVB's interest-rate risk and liquidity management and demanded fixes from the bank in November 2021, Barr said.

In mid-2022, Fed staff deemed the bank's management to be deficient and barred the bank from growing through mergers or acquisitions, Barr said.

Fed supervisors brought those issues to SVB's chief financial officer in October 2022, he said, and raised additional concerns to SVB management in November.

But Barr said the issues weren't brought to his attention until a staff presentation last month.

"To the best of my knowledge I first learned about the issues at Silicon Valley Bank with respect to interest rate risk in mid-February of 2023," Barr said.

(Reporting by Hannah Lang in Washington, editing by Deepa Babington)