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Senate weighs bill to strip failed bank executives of pay

Biden wants failed bank executives held accountable
Biden wants executives of failed banks held accountable 04:53

A bill that would take back pay from executives whose banks fail appears likely to advance in the Senate, several months after Silicon Valley Bank's implosion rattled the tech industry and tanked financial institutions' stocks. 

The Senate Banking Committee on Wednesday heard the bipartisan proposal, co-sponsored by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.)

Dubbed the Recovering Executive Compensation Obtained from Unaccountable Practices Act of 2023, or RECOUP Act, the bill would impose fines of up to $3 million on top bankers and bank directors after an institution collapses. It would also authorize the Federal Deposit Insurance Commission to revoke their compensation, including stock sale proceeds and bonuses, from up to two years before the bank crash.  

"Shortly after the collapse of SVB, CEO Greg Becker fled to Hawaii while the American people were left holding the bag for billions," Scott said during the hearing, adding, "these bank executives were completely derelict in their duties."

The proposal is policymakers' latest push to stave off a potential banking crisis months after a series of large bank failures rattled the finance industry. 

In March, Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Catherine Cortez-Masto of Nevada teamed up with Republican Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Mike Braun of Indiana to propose the Failed Bank Executive Clawback Act. The bill — a harsher version of the RECOUP Act —would require federal regulators to claw back all or part of the compensation received by bank executives in the five years leading up to a bank's failure.

How First Republic compares to other bank failures 04:46

Silicon Valley Bank fell in early March following a run on its deposits after the bank revealed major losses in its long-term bond holdings. The collapse triggered a domino effect, wiping out two regional banks — New York-based Signature Bank and California's First Republic. 

A push to penalize executives gained steam after it emerged that SVB's CEO sold $3.6 million in the financial institution's stock one month before its collapse. The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating the timing of those sales, the Wall Street Journal reported

Tight grip on compensation

Recouping bank officials' pay could prove difficult given that regulators have not changed the rules regarding clawbacks by the FDIC. Under the Dodd-Frank Act, the agency has clawback authority over the largest financial institutions only, in a limited number of special circumstances

In a hearing before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday, FDIC Chair Martin Gruenberg signaled a need for legislation to claw back compensation. 

"We do not have under the Federal Deposit Insurance Act explicit authority for clawback of compensation," Gruenberg said in response to a question by Cortez-Masto. "We can get to some of that with our other authorities. We have that specific authority under Title II of the Dodd-Frank Act. If you were looking for an additional authority, specific authority under the FDI Act for clawbacks, it would probably have some value there."

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