The U.S. Treasury has released its long-awaited “Report of the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets: Money Market Fund Reform Options,” a paper “detailing a number of options for reforms related to money market funds. These options address the vulnerabilities of money market funds that contributed to the financial crisis in 2008.” While the report doesn’t strongly endorse any option, it should be well-received by the money fund community as it appears to discount the possibility of a floating NAV and support the concept of a private liquidity facility.
Treasury’s press release says, “Following the crisis, the Treasury Department directed the PWG to develop this report to assess options for mitigating the systemic risk associated with money market funds and reducing their susceptibility to runs. The PWG agrees that, while a number of positive reforms have been implemented, more should be done to address this susceptibility. The PWG now requests that the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC), established by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, consider the options discussed in this report and pursue appropriate next steps. To assist the FSOC in any analysis, the Securities and Exchange Commission, as the regulator of money market funds, will solicit public comments, including the production of empirical data and other information in support of such comments. A notice and request for comment will be published in the near future. Today’s release is one part in a series of steps that the regulatory community will be taking in the coming months to implement financial reform and to help ensure that the financial system continues to become more resilient.”
The report’s Introduction explains, “Several key events during the financial crisis underscored the vulnerability of the financial system to systemic risk. One such event was the September 2008 run on money market funds (MMFs), which began after the failure of Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc., caused significant capital losses at a large MMF. Amid broad concerns about the safety of MMFs and other financial institutions, investors rapidly redeemed MMF shares, and the cash needs of MMFs exacerbated strains in short-term funding markets. These strains, in turn, threatened the broader economy, as firms and institutions dependent upon those markets for short-term financing found credit increasingly difficult to obtain. Forceful government action was taken to stop the run, restore investor confidence, and prevent the development of an even more severe recession. Even so, short-term funding markets remained disrupted for some time.”
The PWG publication continues, “The Treasury Department proposed in its Financial Regulatory Reform: A New Foundation (2009), that the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets (PWG) prepare a report on fundamental changes needed to address systemic risk and to reduce the susceptibility of MMFs to runs. Treasury stated that the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) rule amendments to strengthen the regulation of MMFs — which were in development at the time and which subsequently have been adopted — should enhance investor protection and mitigate the risk of runs. However, Treasury also noted that those rule changes could not, by themselves, be expected to prevent a run on MMFs of the scale experienced in September 2008. While suggesting a number of areas for review, Treasury added that the PWG should consider ways to mitigate possible adverse effects of further regulatory changes, such as the potential flight of assets from MMFs to less regulated or unregulated vehicles.”
It says, “This report by the PWG responds to Treasury’s call. The PWG undertook a study of possible further reforms that, individually or in combination, might mitigate systemic risk by complementing the SEC’s changes to MMF regulation. The PWG supports the SEC’s recent actions and agrees with the SEC that more should be done to address MMFs’ susceptibility to runs. This report details a number of options for further reform that the PWG requests be examined by the newly established Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC). These options range from measures that could be implemented by the SEC under current statutory authorities to broader changes that would require new legislation, coordination by multiple government agencies, and the creation of new private entities. For example, a new requirement that MMFs adopt floating net asset values (NAVs) or that large funds meet redemption requests in kind could be accomplished by SEC rule amendments. In contrast, the introduction of a private emergency liquidity facility, insurance for MMFs, conversion of MMFs to special purpose banks, or a two-tier system of MMFs that might combine some of the other measures likely would involve a coordinated effort by the SEC, bank regulators, and financial firms.”
The report explains, “Importantly, this report also emphasizes that the efficacy of the options presented herein would be enhanced considerably by the imposition of new constraints on less regulated or unregulated MMF substitutes, such as offshore MMFs, enhanced cash funds, and other stable value vehicles. Without new restrictions on such investment vehicles, which would require legislation, new rules that further constrain MMFs may motivate some investors to shift assets into MMF substitutes that may pose greater systemic risk than MMFs. The PWG requests that the FSOC consider the options discussed in this report to identify those most likely to materially reduce MMFs’ susceptibility to runs and to pursue their implementation. To assist the FSOC in any analysis, the SEC, as the regulator of MMFs, will solicit public comments, including the production of empirical data and other information in support of such comments.”
Finally, under “Policy Options,” the report discusses, Floating net asset values; Private emergency liquidity facilities for MMFs; Mandatory redemptions in kind; Insurance for MMFs; A two-tier system of MMFs with enhanced protection for stable NAV funds; A two-tier system of MMFs with stable NAV MMFs reserved for retail investors; Regulating stable NAV MMFs as special purpose banks; and Enhanced constraints on unregulated MMF substitutes.