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Karma strikes as Bill Ackman, who tried to sink Adani, faces collapse of his own bank

Bill Ackman, American billionaire investor and hedge fund manager (Image courtesy: IANS)

Less than two months ago, Bill Ackman, the high-profile American billionaire investor and hedge fund manager set out a shrill alarm bell for banks, dealing with the Adani group of companies and asked them to focus on thorough due diligence.

“I don’t see how the bankers for the @AdaniOnline equity offering can allow it to close without doing due diligence on the issues identified in the @HindenburgRes report. There is just too much liability exposure for the banks,” the ‘activist investor’, also CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management, tweeted on January 29.

Cut to March 10.

As the sudden collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, headquartered at Santa Clara in California, shocked investors and depositors, the same Ackman was quick to seek a bailout package for the beleaguered lender where he claimed that collectively his venture’s exposure is less than 10 per cent of his assets.

“The failure of @SVB_Financial could destroy an important long-term driver of the economy as VC-backed companies rely on SVB for loans and holding their operating cash. If private capital can’t provide a solution, a highly dilutive gov’t preferred bailout should be considered,” he tweeted.

Two days later after the US authorities assured the depositors that their money would be safe, Ackman once again changed course and tweeted saying that what the American regulators and government did was “not a bailout” but will help in restoring confidence in the country’s banking system.

“Had the @FDICgov @USTreasury and @federalreserve not intervened today, we would have had a 1930s bank run continuing first thing Monday causing enormous economic damage and hardship to millions,” he said adding that more US banks may fail in the near future as another full service commercial lender, New York based Signature Bank also shut down today.

Ackman said that for the bank boards and managements this was “a massive wake up call.”

With two banks collapsing back-to-back, panic is setting in. Business communities, stock markets and regulators are keeping a close watch. Many fear that this crisis could play out much like the 2008 global financial meltdown.

A few questions have come to the fore.

Did Ackman have no idea that there was a crisis like situation brewing in the US banking system? “He was quick to point out about Adani and that banks need to be careful but was he not aware of what was happening in his own country?” asked a promoter of a Mumbai based startup.

Instead of being over enthusiastic over the Adani issue and the content of the Hindenburg report which alleged that the Indian conglomerate was manipulating the stock markets, shouldn’t he have been more focused on the economic developments at home?

Why was there no warning from the ace investor and financial adviser on the banking crisis in the US, especially after the 2008 global meltdown?

Of course, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the Adani Group, Jugeshinder ‘Robbie’ Singh perhaps is having the last laugh. He hit back as Ackman for seeking support to fix the crisis at SVB. “Kid wants ‘mamma’ to come help,” Singh said in a tweet.

Also read: Collapse of Silicon Valley Bank will have limited impact on Indian startup ecosystem