Democrats Robbed a Bank in Silicon Valley - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Democrats Robbed a Bank in Silicon Valley
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What do Willie Sutton and Democrats have in common?

One can rob a bank by wearing the Hamburglar’s mask, handing over Virgil Starkwell’s note, and waving around Evelle Snoats’s firearm. Alternatively, one can simply join the bank’s board and direct the largesse from deposited funds toward all of your friends’ campaigns and causes.

The former method could result in a blue dye pack exploding in the getaway car; the latter in a bailout from the same friends whose campaigns and causes your alleged bank supported.

Silicon Valley Bank more closely resembled a political cult than a financial institution.

The board that so mismanaged depositor funds illustrates this.

An SVB environmental, social, and governance report issued last year listed three “primary areas of experience, qualifications and attributes” desired by SVB in board members, one of which was “experience in managing DEI-related activities within a broader talent strategy.” It excluded any mention of a background in investment banking, a field familiar to just one on SVB’s board of 12.

The board’s diversity, repeatedly invoked in the report, included a black, an alphabet person, and two veterans. Women constituted 45 percent of the board. SVB conveyed its pride in this by mentioning it twice in the report.

In other ways, the board eschewed diversity in favor of conformity. A progressive who ran for mayor of Baltimore, a former Obama administration official, and Democratic Party megadonors populated the board.

Open Secrets lists hundreds of thousands of dollars given to PACs, parties, and politicians by Garen Staglin in over 500 donations, of which just one Republican (George W. Bush) received two donations. Elizabeth Burr gave to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Texas abortion enthusiast Wendy Davis, and other Democrats but to zero Republicans. Eric Benhamou contributed overwhelmingly to Democrats (Al Gore, Dianne Feinstein, Zoe Lofgren) in a dollar-amount sense but did send money to Arlen Specter, John McCain, and a few other Republicans. Open Secrets includes a single donation from Jeff Maggioncalda, who gave $2,500 to Hillary Clinton. His wife, who lists “not employed” and “retired” as her occupation, nevertheless donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Democratic National Committee and dozens of Democratic Party candidates — and not a single Republican.

The uniformity of political giving from a bank board touting its diversity coaxes a laugh, not the law. But it demonstrates that people enormously passionate about politics often imagine the purpose of their jobs — on a comedy club stage, in a classroom, on a playing field — as an instrument to serve their ideology. This politically inspired mission creep resulted in the board mistaking a bank for an ATM for its favored causes.

Political fanatics, more so than fidgety gentlemen with guns, pose an existential threat to banks.

SVB gave over $70 million, according to a Claremont Institute database, to Black Lives Matter and BLM-related causes. Ellie Gardey reports at The American Spectator that California Gov. Gavin Newsom requested in 2021 that “the now-defunct Silicon Valley Bank give [$100,000 to] his wife’s woke ‘gender equity’ foundation, the California Partners Project,” which it did.

Political commitments bizarrely guided investments.

In December, it boasted of $17.5 million in investments in four “Black-, Latinx- and Women-led Community Development Financial Institutions” Last year, SVB sent out a press release titled “Silicon Valley Bank Commits to $5 Billion in Sustainable Finance and Carbon Neutral Operations to Support a Healthier Planet.”

The company featured a “growing” Technology Equity Research Team that pursued quota-ism, paid Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to conduct an “equity audit, and launched “the SVB Fellows Program, a fellowship program for Black, Latinx and women professionals looking to launch their careers in venture capital.”

The board, and the like-minded people it hired, turned a bank into a charity, a women’s studies department, and a political action committee. One could say they lost focus or that they focused on matters extraneous to banking.

SVB noted that one of its board’s six committees, the “Governance and Corporate Responsibility Committee[,] maintained its focus and emphasis on board diversity to achieve the optimal balance for our Board, including by working with its outside director search firm to include diverse candidates for consideration, and will continue to focus on board diversity into the future.”

In a business that can and does ruin people, why not emphasize instead finding candidates with impressive backgrounds in matters of finance without regard to race, creed, sex, sexual orientation, or any other category with no relevance to the qualifications of a bank overseer?

This same board committee “oversees and periodically reviews SVB’s political activities, including political contributions, on at least an annual basis. The Board and its Governance and Corporate Responsibility Committee recognize the importance of appropriate governance and risk management of our corporate political activities, and they review our activities for alignment with SVB’s business strategy, reputation and mission, as well as for compliance with applicable laws and regulations. The Governance and Corporate Responsibility Committee also reviews and approves our Statement of Political Activity.”

Did the Bailey Building and Loan engage in “political activities”? How about the New Asiatic Bank that employed Mike and Psmith? Did Tigg Montague’s Anglo-Bengalee Disinterested Loan and Life Assurance Company siphon off its profits to the Liberal or Conservative parties?

Certainly the company’s failure to hedge its investments after the money supply tightened represents a larger causal factor for its insolvency. But dismissing the non sequitur political spending from a bank misses the point. The very reckless people who would divert $70 million to BLM and pledge $5 billion for “sustainable finance” double as the very reckless people who would scoff at hedging once monetary policy tightened.

Willie Sutton robbed banks because that’s where the money is. A similar rationale motivates Democrats.

Sutton spent decades in jail. After looting the coffers of Silicon Valley Bank, social justice crusaders receive indemnification from the federal government.

The reader may decide the better bank robber.


Silicon Valley Bank Got Woke, Went Broke

Daniel J. Flynn
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Daniel J. Flynn, a senior editor of The American Spectator, is the author of Cult City: Harvey Milk, Jim Jones, and 10 Days That Shook San Francisco (ISI Books, 2018), The War on Football (Regnery, 2013), Blue Collar Intellectuals (ISI Books, 2011), A Conservative History of the American Left (Crown Forum, 2008), Intellectual Morons (Crown Forum, 2004), and Why the Left Hates America (Prima Forum, 2002). His articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, New York Post, City Journal, National Review, and his own website,   
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