Business

Meet The CEO Whose Failed Bank Was Bailed Out By The Biden Administration

Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

James Lynch Investigative Reporter
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Greg Becker, former CEO of collapsed Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), led the bank to its downfall after he oversaw a period of enormous growth and became a prominent progressive advocate for the tech sector.

Becker joined SVB as a banker in 1993 and worked his way up to becoming CEO and President in 2011, according to his archived bio. He co-founded the bank’s venture capital fund, which held large stakes in prominent venture capital firms such as Andreessen Horowitz and Sequoia Capital. He also played a prominent role in steering the bank through the 2008 financial crisis, per Reuters. (RELATED: Shocker: One Of America’s Most Politically Connected Banks Is Due For A Huge Profit Off Other Bank’s Failure)

His profile quickly grew after he became the bank’s chief executive, becoming a prominent champion of the innovation economy. Becker chaired the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a local business advocacy organization, from 2014-17 and later served on its executive council. He also chaired TechNet, a bipartisan tech trade association, from 2020-22, after joining its executive council in 2016.

Becker was a member of the U.S. Commerce Department’s Digital Economy Board from 2016-17 and became a Class A director of the San Francisco Federal Reserve in 2019. He left the San Francisco Fed in the wake of SVB’s collapse.

As part of his lobbying efforts, Becker supported rolling back parts of the Dodd-Frank regulatory package passed during the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

Becker donated to powerful Democrats such as New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, FEC records show. He provided small contributions to Silicon Valley Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna and Zoe Lofgren, and gave funds to Political Action Committees (PACs) associated with the Democratic party, according to data from watchdog OpenSecrets. (RELATED: Chuck Schumer, Maxine Waters Return Political Donations Linked To Silicon Valley Bank)

A bipartisan bank deregulation package was signed by President Trump in 2018, the same year SVB joined the S&P 500 after years of growth with Becker at the helm. An estimated 67% of all venture-backed companies with an Initial Public Offering (IPO) used SVB, a sign of the bank’s dominance with high-growth startups.

SVB became the 14th largest financial institution in the U.S. under Becker’s leadership, with about $209 billion in assets before the bank failed. It had $50 million in assets when Becker was first hired.

Diversity initiatives became a priority for Becker at SVB, inspired by the Black Lives Matter riots of 2020. The bank promised more than $73 million for social justice causes from 2020-2022, a 2020 report showed. SVB also partnered with 44 organizations to improve Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in the innovation economy and 20% of its employees participated in a DEI advocacy network, according to the report.

Silicon Valley Bank was included on Bloomberg’s gender equality index and ranked as a top corporate philanthropist by the Bay Area Business Journals. Forbes named it one of the world’s best employers and listed SVB as one of the world’s best banks in 2023.

Becker’s net worth grew to an estimated $37 million, primarily from selling off SVB stock. He offloaded $3.6 million worth of SVB stock on Feb. 27th, right before the bank collapsed, a transaction now under investigation by the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission. His annual salary was about $6.7 million over the past two years, per Axios.

In total, Becker sold $30 million worth of SVB stock from 2020-23 at prices ranging from $287 a share to $598 a share, per CNBC. The bank’s stock price dropped as the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes hammered the tech industry, leading to widespread layoffs.

SVB’s overexposure to long term treasury bonds made it vulnerable to interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve. The bank’s vulnerability caused a run on the bank and its eventual collapse, the largest meltdown since 2008.

Regulators took control of the bank on Friday and announced a plan to bail out its depositors on Sunday. Becker was relieved of his duties along with the bank’s entire executive team.

Becker graduated from Indiana University with a business degree and has three children with his wife, Tiffany. He was born in 1969 and raised in California.