JPMorgan takes over First Republic after it’s seized by Californian financial regulator

JPMorgan takes over First Republic after it’s seized by Californian financial regulator

A view of the First Republic Bank logo at the Park Avenue location, in New York City, March 10, 2023.

David Dee Delgado | Reuters

The Californian financial regulator has taken possession of First Republic, resulting in the third failure of an American bank since March, after a last-ditch effort to persuade rival lenders to keep the ailing bank afloat failed.

JPMorgan Chase Bank will assume all deposits, including uninsured deposits, and “substantially all assets” of the bank, according to a release early Monday.

The California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation said it had taken possession of the bank and appointed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation receiver of the bank. The FDIC accepted JPMorgan’s bid for the bank’s assets.

Since the sudden collapse of Silicon Valley Bank in March, attention has focused on First Republic as the weakest link in the U.S. banking system. Like SVB, which catered to the tech startup community, First Republic was also a California-based specialty lender of sorts. It focused on serving rich coastal Americans, enticing them with low-rate mortgages in exchange for leaving cash at the bank.

But that model unraveled in the wake of the SVB collapse, as First Republic clients withdrew more than $100 billion in deposits, the bank revealed in its earnings report April 24. Institutions with a high proportion of uninsured deposits like SVB and First Republic found themselves vulnerable because clients feared losing savings in a bank run.

Shares of First Republic are down 97% so far this year as of Friday’s close.

That deposit drain forced First Republic to borrow heavily from Federal Reserve facilities to maintain operations, which pressured the company’s margins because its cost of funding is far higher now. First Republic accounted for 72% of all borrowing from the Fed’s discount window recently, according to BCA Research chief strategist Doug Peta.

On April 24, First Republic CEO Michael Roffler sought to portray an image of stability after the events of March. Deposit outflows have slowed in recent weeks, he said. But the stock tanked after the company disavowed its previous financial guidance and Roffler opted not to take questions after an unusually brief conference call.

The bank’s advisors had hoped to persuade the biggest U.S. banks to help First Republic once again. One version of the plan circulated recently involved asking banks to pay above-market rates for bonds on First Republic’s balance sheet, which would enable it to raise capital from other sources.

But ultimately the banks, which had banded together in March to inject $30 billion of deposits into First Republic, couldn’t agree on the rescue plan and regulators took action, ending the bank’s 38-year run.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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