On July 23, 2014, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) adopted significant amendments (the “amendments”) to rules under the Investment Company Act of 1940 (the “Investment Company Act”) and related requirements that govern money market funds (“MMFs”). The SEC’s adoption of the amendments is the latest action taken by U.S. regulators as part of the ongoing debate about systemic risks posed by MMFs and the extent to which previous reform efforts have addressed these concerns. Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury Department (“Treasury”) and the Internal Revenue Service (the “IRS”) released guidance on the same day setting forth simplified rules to address tax compliance issues that the SEC’s MMF reforms would otherwise impose on MMFs and their investors.
Posts Tagged ‘Money market funds’
After six years of debate over the risks and operations of money market funds (MMFs)—and events such as the fall of Lehman Brothers, breaking the buck at the Reserve Primary Fund, rancor between financial regulators, and hundreds of industry comment letters—the SEC finally adopted MMF reform on July 23rd. The final rule will fundamentally alter certain aspects of MMF operations and accounting, and the way these funds are viewed by investors.
Today’s [July 23, 2014] reforms will fundamentally change the way that most money market funds operate. They will reduce the risk of runs in money market funds and provide important new tools that will help further protect investors and the financial system in a crisis. Together, this strong reform package will make our financial system more resilient and enhance the transparency and fairness of these products for America’s investors.
Today [July 23, 2014], the Commission considers adopting long-considered reforms to the rules governing money market funds. I commend the hard work of the staff, particularly the Division of Investment Management and the Division of Economic and Risk Analysis (“DERA”), who worked tirelessly to present these thoughtful and deliberate amendments. It is well known that the journey to arrive at the amendments considered today was a difficult one, and I can confidently say that this has been, at times, perhaps one of the most flawed and controversial rulemaking processes the Commission has undertaken.
Money market funds (MMFs) have, since the 2008 financial crisis, been deemed part of the nefarious shadow banking industry and targeted for regulatory reform. In my paper, The Broken Buck Stops Here: Embracing Sponsor Support in Money Market Fund Reform, I critically evaluate the logic behind current reform proposals, demonstrating that none of the proposals is likely to be effective in addressing the primary source of MMF stability—redemption demands in times of economic resources that impose pressure on MMF liquidity. In addition, inherent limitations in the mechanisms for calculating the fair value of MMF assets present a practical limitation on the utility of a floating NAV. I then offer an unprecedented alternative approach—mandatory sponsor support. My proposal would require MMF sponsors to commit to supporting their funds as a condition of offering a fund with a fixed $1 NAV.
As a practicing securities lawyer for more than thirty years, I have in the past advised boards of directors, including mutual fund boards, and I am well acquainted with the important work that you do. I also understand the essential role that independent directors play in ensuring good corporate governance. As fiduciaries, you play a critical role in setting the appropriate tone at the top and overseeing the funds’ business. Thus, I commend the Mutual Fund Directors Forum’s efforts in providing a platform for independent mutual fund directors to share ideas and best practices. Improving fund governance is vital to investor protection and maintaining the integrity of our financial markets.
For nearly 80 years, the Securities and Exchange Commission has been playing a vital role in the economic strength of our nation. Year after year, the agency has steadfastly sought to protect investors, make it possible for companies of all sizes to raise the funds needed to grow, and to ensure that our markets are operating fairly and efficiently.
That is our three-part mission.
But, while commitment to this mission has remained constant and strong over the years, the world in which we operate continuously changes, sometimes dramatically.
When the Commission’s formative statutes were drafted, no one was prepared for today’s market technology or the sheer speed at which trades are now executed. No one dreamed of the complex financial products that are traded today. And, not even science fiction writers would have bet that individuals would so soon communicate instantaneously in so many different ways.
On June 5, 2013, the SEC voted unanimously to propose alternatives for amending rules that govern money market mutual funds under the Investment Company Act of 1940. Two alternative reforms to rule 2a-7 under the Investment Company Act of 1940 could be adopted separately or combined into a single reform package:
- Alternative One: Floating Net Asset Value (“NAV”): The proposal would require all institutional prime money market funds to sell and redeem shares based on the current market value of the fund’s portfolio securities, rounded to the fourth decimal place, rather than at a $1.00 stable share price. Retail and government money market funds would be exempt from the floating net asset value requirement and would be allowed to continue using the penny-rounding method of pricing to maintain a stable share price but would not be allowed to use the amortized cost method to value securities.
- Alternative Two: Liquidity Fees and Redemption Gates: Money market funds, other than government money market funds, would be required to impose a 2% liquidity fee if the fund’s level of weekly liquid assets fell below 15% of its total assets, unless the fund’s board of directors (a “Board”) determined that it was not in the best interest of the fund or that a lesser liquidity fee was in the best interests of the fund. After a fund has fallen below the 15% weekly liquid assets threshold, the Board would also be able to temporarily suspend redemptions in the fund for no more than 30 days in any 90-day period.
Today [June 5, 2013], the Commission considers amending the rules that govern money market funds to address potential systemic risks. Before I begin, I would like to recognize the efforts of the staff throughout the SEC, especially the Division of Investment Management and the Division of Risk, Strategy, and Financial Innovation. I acknowledge and appreciate the staff’s good work in examining the 2010 amendments to Rule 2a-7 and the staff’s report, which concluded that, among other things, the 2010 amendments would not have been adequate to prevent the systemic risks that we saw in 2008. This report has resulted in the much-improved proposal that is before us today.
The staff’s work is a testament as to why the SEC should take the helm of matters that are within its jurisdiction. I appreciate that the Financial Stability Oversight Council (“FSOC”) recently said as much in its 2013 Annual Report.  The SEC’s expertise brings a clear-eyed experience and practical knowledge that can target needed change, while being mindful of unintended consequences.
I am supportive of the staff’s recommendations and will first put the proposed amendments in context, and then highlight a few items.
There have been recent developments related to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s consideration of potential reform of money market funds that I would like to highlight.
On November 30, 2012, the SEC staff delivered to the Commission its report delving deeper into the causes of investor redemptions in 2008, the efficacy of the Commission’s 2010 amendments to strengthen Rule 2a-7 (the principal rule that governs money market funds), and the potential impacts of future reform on issuers and investors. This is a welcome development. As I previously stated, I have been requesting this analysis so that it could inform the dialogue as to any further money market fund reform.  The staff’s report is a response to a request made in mid-September by a majority of the Commission (Commissioners Aguilar, Paredes and Gallagher) that asked the Division of Risk, Strategy, and Financial Innovation to conduct a study to answer a series of questions intended to inform the continuing dialogue.
I look forward to the staff’s report being made public, so that the Commission can benefit from the public dialogue.
There have also been developments in the consideration of the potential impact of assets migrating from existing transparent, regulated money market funds to opaque, unregulated funds (sometimes referred to as Liquidity Funds) as a result of structural changes to money market funds.