No wonder it failed: Obama official, Hillary donors, improv actor all on board of Silicon Valley Bank
By JD Heyes // Mar 17, 2023

One of them is a Hillary Clinton mega-donor who visited a Shinto shrine to pray when Donald Trump won the White House. Another is a former staffer for President Barack Obama whose own political career ended in failure. A third person is a frequent contributor to Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi, who owns a vineyard near the former House speaker's Napa Valley estate. The group also includes an improv performer.

The 12 directors responsible for overseeing the now-fallen Silicon Valley Bank may not be widely known, but they are under scrutiny for their role in the bank's collapse and are currently facing multiple investigations, the New York Post reported this week.

"A Post examination of the board reveals it did not jibe with Silicon Valley’s young image: Only one independent director is under 60, while the oldest is 78," the outlet said.

SVB emphasized its diversity in its 2022 proxy statement, though, stating that 45 percent of its board members are women, as well as having "other diversity" such as one black member, one LGQBT+ member, and two veterans.

Tom King, former CEO of investment banking at Barclays, was appointed to the board of SVB Financial Group, the parent company of fallen Silicon Valley Bank, in September. The group's board is composed of seven men and five women, with just one member having a career at the top of the investment banking world. Meanwhile, the bank and much of the board were vocal about their Democratic credentials as part of their strategy, The Post noted.

They have been revealed to have donated to prominent Democrats such as Obama, Clinton, and President Biden. They also contributed to the political action committees for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), a member of the Senate Banking Committee. Only one board member has had a career in investment banking, which is expected to be a focus for investigators. These contributions were definitely in line with the bank's business model (which failed, obviously).

“Everyone knew it was the go-to bank for woke CEOs,” one source told the New York Post. “They knew they were aligned politically. The companies SVB loaned money to all had a woke agenda.”

Kate Mitchell, 64, one of the directors facing investigation, is a major donor to Hillary Clinton's campaign. In 2016, after Donald Trump's victory, she was so upset that she went to a shrine in Kyoto during Thanksgiving, she said.

“I prayed for me and us to get beyond our grieving and shock and to figure out how to engage and listen to what happened and come back together,” Mitchell told CNBC. She had already donated $50,000 to Hillary's Victory fund.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth "Busy" Burr, one of the board members of SVB, has a rare hobby of improvisational theater. The 61-year-old Burr is currently serving as the interim CEO of RiteAid after Heyward Donigan's exit in January. She credits being in an improv troupe for her success, noted The Post.

“I’ve learned a lot from doing improv, and it’s influenced how I think about leadership,” she told Authority Magazine in February 2021 before joining SVB's board in November of that year.

In the same interview, she made her 'wokeness' known, emphasizing her belief that directors have a responsibility to encourage companies to prioritize diversity and make it a central part of their business strategies.

Another board member of SVB, Garen K. Staglin, has a history of donating to the Democratic Party. He has been a member of the board since 2012 and is the owner of Staglin Family Vineyard, a 61-acre property in Napa County. The vineyard is known for producing certified organic wines, with their 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon retailing for over $300. Less than 15 minutes away is the Napa Valley estate owned by Democratic Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi and her husband, Paul, The Post added.

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