Reports that Silicon Valley Bank donated more than $70 million to Black Lives Matter have been circulating in the media, but the inaccurate claim is based on misleading data.
Media outlets including the Federalist and commentators on Fox News have suggested that Silicon Valley’s demise was related in part to the bank’s donations to Black Lives Matter and related causes. “Fox & Friends” co-host Ainsley Earhardt said that “Silicon Valley Bank donated more than $73 million to Black Lives Matter,” and Fox News host Jesse Watters said the bank “pledged $75 million to Black Lives Matter.” (Fox Corp., the parent of Fox News, shares common ownership with MarketWatch publisher Dow Jones’s parent, News Corp.)
But a review of the source of those claims by the newsletter Popular Information found that Silicon Valley Bank did not donate or pledge any money to any of the groups associated with Black Lives Matter, which include the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, the Movement for Black Lives and other groups. Black Lives Matter is a decentralized social-justice movement, not an individual group.
The reports about Silicon Valley Bank’s Black Lives Matter donations originated with the Claremont Institute’s Center for the American Way of Life, which describes its mission as “arming the Right with moral confidence, ideas, and new policies, while working to undermine the Left’s hold over America’s institutions and conscience.”
The right-wing think tank recently launched a database, which it announced in a Newsweek article, meant to track pledges and donations “to the Black Lives Matter movement and related causes” that companies have made since 2020, when George Floyd’s murder set off nationwide protests and a reckoning over longstanding racial inequities.
The Claremont Institute’s database lists companies’ pledges and donations to the primary groups behind the Black Lives Matter movement “and related causes.” (The Claremont Institute also lists a group called the Black Lives Matter Foundation as an organization aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement, but that foundation is neither affiliated nor aligned with the movement.)
While Silicon Valley Bank had zero donations to the groups most prominently associated with the movement, it’s listed in the database because of commitments to “related causes,” which Claremont defines as “organizations and initiatives that advance one or more aspects of BLM’s agenda.”
Those include civil-rights groups such as Color of Change, the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union, a Claremont Institute spokesman said in an email, as well as “racial reparative initiatives [including] race-based, discriminatory hiring programs; race-based, sub-prime lending; partisan voter initiatives; and DEI efforts.”
Most of Silicon Valley Bank’s $70,650,000 figure falls into the related-causes category, the spokesman noted. “In the case of SVB, the vast majority of the funding that we highlighted went toward these other reparative initiatives, not nonprofits (although SVB did donate to the NAACP, ACLU, and National Urban League, among others),” he said. (The Claremont Institute changed the total figure from $73 million to $70 million after Popular Information pointed out some errors in the data.)
But, as Popular Information pointed out, the bulk of Silicon Valley Bank’s pledges and donations “went to organizations and initiatives that have little to do with BLM.” For example, the bank made a five-year $50 million pledge toward an internal program to “connect women, Black people, and Latinos with startup funding, networking, and leadership development in the venture capitalist ecosystem,” Popular Information reported.
“The other major contribution by SVB that the Claremont Institute says was BLM-related was a $20 million donation ‘to support additional COVID-19 relief’ and establish a ‘full-ride, needs-based University Scholarship program to students at Arizona State University, Florida A&M University, Tulane University, and Xavier University,’” the newsletter reported.
“‘Associating a multi-billion-dollar bank failure to supposed donations made to Black organizations is quite literally the definition of white supremacy — especially when it’s a bank that has been and continues to be largely run by white people.’”
The question of which companies have donated to the Black Lives Matter movement and other progressive causes is of interest to people across the political spectrum. Conservatives who disagree with corporate spending on progressive causes have tried to track companies’ charitable giving, sometimes by filing shareholder proposals demanding that companies disclose their donations. Meanwhile, liberal groups want to hold companies accountable for their promises to address racial injustice and other societal problems.
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But getting precise information on exactly how much money companies have sent to racial-justice movements is a challenge. Companies aren’t required to disclose donations to nonprofit groups unless they make the donation through a company foundation, which many don’t.
Estimates vary widely on the amounts that companies have pledged to racial-justice efforts since 2020. Candid, an organization that builds data tools to track nonprofits and foundations, maintains a database of donations toward racial equity by both companies and philanthropic foundations. Silicon Valley Bank is not listed among the funders.
Read more: Facebook, Amazon, Google and others pledged billions for racial justice in 2020. Tracking where all the money went is ‘almost impossible.’
In response to questions about Silicon Valley Bank’s donations to the Black Lives Matter movement, a spokesperson for the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation said, “Associating a multi-billion-dollar bank failure to supposed donations made to Black organizations is quite literally the definition of white supremacy — especially when it’s a bank that has been and continues to be largely run by white people.”
“We’re more than happy to have conversations about why the government takes swift action when a bank is struggling, but fails time and again to take swift action for poor and working-class Black families trying to make ends meet,” the spokesperson added.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which took over Silicon Valley Bank, declined to comment.