Tags: Treasurys Geithner Urges Action on Money Market Funds

Treasury's Geithner Urges Action on Money Market Funds

Thursday, 27 Sep 2012 05:13 PM

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner called for the new financial risk council to consider reforms for money market funds, despite stiff opposition from the $2.6 trillion industry and from some securities regulators.

In a letter dated Thursday, Geithner said the Financial Stability Oversight Council should formally ask the Securities and Exchange Commission to move forward with new rules in a bid to get the divided SEC to act.

He also said the council and its member regulators should consider exercising other powers to more tightly regulate the money market fund industry, including naming some firms as "systemic" and imposing capital surcharges on banks that sponsor money funds.

"Without further reform of money market funds, our financial system will remain vulnerable to runs and instability, which are harmful for retail and institutional investors," Geithner wrote.

"With the failure of the SEC to act, the Council should now move forward with the tools provided by Congress."

Geithner's letter came about a month after Mary Schapiro, the head of the SEC, announced she had failed to win enough support at her agency to advance reforms.

Schapiro had circulated a draft proposal on fund reforms that included requiring the funds to build up capital buffers and impose limits on redemptions, to reduce the risk of runs on funds.

It also included a plan to move away from their policy of maintaining a stable $1 per share net asset value.

But three of the SEC's commissioners - Democrat Luis Aguilar and Republicans Troy Paredes and Dan Gallagher - said they could not support her proposals. They have expressed skepticism about the need to adopt additional money market reforms beyond the ones enacted in 2010.

Confidence in the money fund industry was shaken in 2008 when the Reserve Primary Fund, one of the oldest and biggest money funds, "broke the buck", meaning its per-share value fell below $1. That happened because of the fund's heavy losses on debt holdings in investment bank Lehman Brothers which had collapsed a few days earlier.

The SEC enacted money market reforms in 2010 that tightened credit quality standards, shortened weighted average maturities and imposed a liquidity requirement on money market funds.

But Schapiro is not convinced these rules go far enough.

Last week, Schapiro penned a column in the Wall Street Journal calling on FSOC to take action, saying money market funds remain vulnerable to runs.

The FSOC is slated to meet in a closed-door session Friday, where the topic of money market funds may come up.

Geithner's decision to get FSOC involved in money market funds will ratchet up the pressure on SEC commissioners to come to a consensus.

Created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law in 2010, FSOC is a panel comprised of the top U.S. banking and financial market regulators.

The council has the authority to dub non-bank financial firms such as money market funds as "systemically important," a designation that subjects them to greater regulatory oversight.

The panel can also use its powers to pressure regulators to act, in a Dodd-Frank measure colloquially known as the "name and shame" provision.

That provision allows the FSOC to make formal recommendations to regulators. The SEC would then need to either adopt the FSOC's proposed rules, or formally reject them in writing within 90 days.

In his letter, Geithner urged the council to consider both of these options.

He said he has already asked his staff to begin drafting a list of formal recommendations for the SEC to consider.

Some of those reforms, he said, could include Schapiro's proposals to require funds to set aside more capital and restrict customer withdrawals at times of stress.

He also, however, said the council is willing to entertain an alternative approach of imposing capital standards coupled with liquidity fees or temporary "gates" on redemptions.

Both Republican SEC commissioners last month said they were open to exploring rules that would allow fund boards to impose "gates" on redemptions.

© 2017 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner called for the new financial risk council to consider reforms for money market funds, despite stiff opposition from the $2.6 trillion industry and from some securities regulators.
Treasurys Geithner Urges Action on Money Market Funds

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