On May 1, 2023, the United States saw the collapse of a major bank, as regulators seized control of First Republic Bank and sold it to JPMorgan Chase. The collapse was described by many media outlets and social media commentators as the second-largest bank failure in U.S. history.
One Twitter user posted a chart of failed U.S. banks alongside their total assets at the time of failure. Charlie Bilello wrote "only Washington Mutual was bigger," referring to its infamous collapse in 2008.
This statement is correct. While we have not looked into all the data in the tweet, the total assets reported in it for First Republic Bank and Washington Mutual at the time of their respective collapses are accurate. According to analysis from The Associated Press and The New York Times, First Republic Bank was indeed the second-largest bank failure based on the assets it held at the time of collapse.
According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the regulator that took over First Republic before selling it to JPMorgan, the bank was left with a total of $229.1 billion in assets and $103.9 billion in total deposits. They noted that this was the available data as of April 13, 2023.
Compare this to Washington Mutual, which failed during the financial crisis of 2008 and was also taken over by JPMorgan. At that time, they held approximately $307 billion in total assets. The New York Times wrote this on the failure, back in September 2008:
Washington Mutual, with $307 billion in assets, is by far the biggest bank failure in history, eclipsing the 1984 failure of Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust in Chicago, an event that presaged the savings and loan crisis. IndyMac, which was seized by regulators in July, was one-tenth the size of WaMu.
The Times calculated that Washington Mutual had owned the equivalent of $430 billion in assets, adjusted for inflation.
According to The Associated Press, First Republic was the third mid-sized bank to fail in two months. Silicon Valley Bank failed in March 2023 with $209 billion in assets, according to the FDIC. This put it as the second largest bank failure at that time, until it was eclipsed by First Republic.
How did First Republic Bank fail? While it did receive a $30 billion cash infusion from major banks in an effort to restore client confidence, customers pulled out $102 billion in deposits in the first quarter of 2023 alone. According to a Bloomberg analysis by economist Mohamed A. El-Erian:
First Republic found itself in a similar situation to Silicon Valley Bank, which was shut down by regulators in March. Its failure to manage an interest rate mismatch on its balance sheet ultimately crippled it as deposits flew out the door in response to the earlier bank failures. Its vulnerability was amplified by the Federal Reserve's initial mischaracterization of inflation as transitory, the failure to take timely measures, and the inevitably highly concentrated set of hikes that followed.
Since the data and reporting shows that based on total assets this collapse was the second-largest among U.S. banks in history, we rate this claim as "True."