Fact Check: Facebook posts – Claim that Silicon Valley Bank donated $73 million to Black Lives Matter is unsupported
After Silicon Valley Bank collapsed, some pundits and news organizations suggested without evidence that “woke” investments contributed to the collapse.
“Silicon Valley Bank “donated $73M to ‘BLM Movement,’” one March 15 Newsmax headline circulating on social media read.
Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Jesse Watters also made similar claims.
“Silicon Valley Bank — brace yourself — spent more than $73 million on donations to BLM and related organizations,” Carlson said March 14.
The Newsmax article and similar posts were flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)
The Newsmax article pointed to a database from the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank. The database tracks pledges and contributions to the “BLM movement and related causes,” according to the institute.
In the database’s “explanatory notes,” the institute said its definition of the “BLM movement” includes organizations such as Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation; Movement for Black Lives; “grassroots” groups; “independent BLM chapters;” the “fiscal sponsors of BLM organizations;” and “BLM partners” such as the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union.
The Claremont Institute defined Black Lives Matter “related causes” as “organizations and initiatives that advance one or more aspects of BLM’s agenda.” However, Black Lives Matter is not one entity with a set agenda. It is a decentralized international activist movement with no formal hierarchy.
The Claremont Institute and Silicon Valley Bank did not respond to PolitiFact’s requests for comment.
An institute spokesperson told MarketWatch that most of Silicon Valley Bank’s roughly $70.5 million in contributions fell in the “related causes” category. He also said the bank donated to the NAACP and ACLU.
@politifact #siliconvalleybank collapsed last week. Did regulation changes under #Trump play a role in its downfall? #svb #bank #government #finance #bankfailure #economics #economy #business #LearnOnTikTok #FYP ♬ Chill Vibes – Tollan Kim
The bank’s charitable contributions included in Claremont’s $70 million-plus total went primarily to groups and initiatives with no clear tie to the Black Lives Matter movement:
A 2021 pledge to “invest more than $50 million” over five years into the bank’s Access to Innovation program, which works to connect people who are often underrepresented in the “innovation economy” — including women, Blacks and Latinos — with hiring, mentorship, educational and networking opportunities.
A $20 million donation that the bank said would be used to support COVID-19 relief; a needs-based scholarship program; economic development; and diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
A 2-to-1 matching campaign the bank created in 2020 for employees who donated their money or time to social justice organizations.
A $250,000 allocation from the Silicon Valley Bank Foundation to support grants for social justice organizations where bank employees volunteer.
A prominent Black Lives Matter organization, Black Lives Matter Global Foundation Network, told PolitiFact in a statement that the Black Lives Matter movement includes thousands of organizations, so there is no way for the group to say with certainty whether Silicon Valley Bank donated to any one of them. The group also said the bank’s possible contributions to Black causes are irrelevant to what caused the bank’s collapse.
Flags fly in Black Lives Matter Plaza as President Joe Biden is sworn in during 59th Presidential Inauguration, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington. (AP)
A report in the newsletter Popular Information found an error in the database’s calculations: Nearly $3 million in contributions that the database had initially counted occurred in 2019, not 2020. The Claremont Institute, which started tracking this data in 2020, updated the database to reflect that information, meaning the bank’s total contributions for 2020 were $70.65 million, rather than over $73 million, as the initial claims said.
As of March 22, Newsmax had not corrected its headline to reflect that change.
Facebook posts claimed Silicon Valley Bank “donated $73M to ‘BLM Movement.'”
The claim stemmed from a database kept by the Claremont Institute. It showed that since 2020, Silicon Valley Bank had donated or pledged to donate more than $70 million to causes “related” to the Black Lives Matter movement. The institute defined “related causes” as “organizations and initiatives that advance one or more aspects of BLM’s agenda.”
Black Lives Matter is not one entity with a set agenda; it is a decentralized international activist movement with no formal hierarchy.
A close look at the Claremont list shows that Silicon Valley Bank’s charitable contributions went primarily to groups and initiatives with no clear association to the Black Lives Matter movement.
We rate this claim False.
RELATED: Was Silicon Valley Bank demise caused by Trump easing regulation, ‘woke’ efforts, or something else?