The cryptocurrency-friendly Signature Bank was reportedly being investigated by two United States government bodies prior to its collapse.
According to a March 15 Bloomberg report citing people familiar with the matter, investigators with the Justice Department were examining whether Signature took adequate measures to detect potential money laundering by its clients.
It was noted the regulator was particularly concerned as to whether the bank was taking preemptive measures to monitor transactions for “signs of criminality” and properly vetting account holders.
A separate probe by the Securities and Exchange Commission was also “taking a look” at the bank, according to two anonymous sources quoted by Bloomberg. Details regarding the nature of the SEC’s probe were not reported.
It's unclear when the investigations began and what effect, if any, they had on the recent decision by New York state regulators to close the bank.
It’s reported Signature and its staff are not accused of wrongdoing and the investigations may be finalized without any charges or further action taken by the SEC or the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The report comes after a March 14 class action lawsuit by Signature shareholders filed against the bank and former executives for claiming to be “financially strong,” only three days before it was forcibly shuttered.
Barney Frank, a former board member of Signature Bank, said on March 13 the regulators wanted “to send a very strong anti-crypto message.”
Frank added the crypto-friendly bank became the “poster boy,” as there was “no insolvency based on the fundamentals.”
Signature, which was closed on March 12, was part of a series of bank closures that also included Silvergate Capital and Silicon Valley Bank (SVB).
The DOJ and the SEC have reportedly since initiated separate investigations into the collapse of Silvergate Capital and SVB.
It’s reported the regulators will examine the events leading up to the bank’s collapse, including scrutinizing security filings that disclosed the sale of SVB shares by the firm's CEO Greg Becker and CFO Daniel Beck that took place two weeks prior to its downfall.
The SEC has not formally commented on the matters, but SEC chair Gary Gensler said on March 12 that it “will investigate and bring enforcement actions if we find violations of the federal securities laws.”