Regulators’ fight to reform money market funds continues. Despite the fact that Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairwoman Mary Schapiro said in mid-August that she had received word from three commissioners—including Luis Aguilar, a Democrat—that they would not support her proposed reforms, the two Republican commissioners came out with their own “way forward” in reforming the funds. (Read about some drawbacks to money market funds in “Time to Consider Alternatives to Money Market Funds,” page 91.)
Schapiro’s proposed reform plan, which was set to come before the Commission for a vote on Aug. 29, would have included requiring money market funds to abandon the stable $1 net asset value (NAV) in favor of a floating value, or combining significant capital requirements with hold-back restrictions on redemptions. Those proposed reforms, she said, “were intended to reduce their susceptibility to runs, protect retail investors and lessen the need for future taxpayer bailouts.”
But Schapiro decided to cancel a vote on the reform proposal after getting word from Aguilar that he would join the two Republican commissioners in voting against the proposal, arguing that Schapiro’s plan could have too many unintended consequences.
Aguilar told Investment Advisor in a Sept. 4 interview that a “majority” of the commissioners, including himself, are “pleading with the SEC staff to do a study of the 2010” reforms that the agency instituted regarding money market funds. The Divisions of Investment Management and Risk, Strategy and Innovation (RiskFin) should perform such a study to see how the “reforms have worked” since being adopted, he said.
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Schapiro released a statement in which she said that “the declaration by the three Commissioners that they will not vote to propose reform now provides the needed clarity for other policymakers as they consider ways to address the systemic risks posed by money market funds. I urge them to act with the same determination that the staff of the SEC has displayed over the past two years.”
She continued: “As we consider money market funds’ susceptibility to runs, we must remember the lessons of the financial crisis and the history of money market funds. And, we must be cognizant that the tools that were used to stop the run on money market funds in 2008 no longer exist. That is, there is no ‘back-up plan’ in place if we experience another run on money market funds because money market funds effectively are operating without a net.”
The issue of money market fund reform “is too important to investors, to our economy and to taxpayers to put our head in the sand and wish it away,” Schapiro said. “Money market funds’ susceptibility to runs needs to be addressed. Other policymakers now have clarity that the SEC will not act to issue a money market fund reform proposal and can take this into account in deciding what steps should be taken to address this issue.”