Friday, September 14, 2012

Senator Corker Sees Common Ground at SEC on Money Market Reform

 In a letter to the SEC, Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn)., a member of the Senate Banking Committee, urged the Commission to continue pursuit of money market fund reform to protect taxpayers from a potential bailout, building on the common ground established with an initial proposal from Chairman Mary Schapiro. Despite making progress, the SEC set aside further consideration of a proposed money market rule last month due to a lack of consensus among Commissioners.

In the event of a disruption in our financial system, said Senator Corker, Congress could be faced with a difficult choice of allowing individual investors to bear significant personal losses while institutional investors, who likely watch the commercial paper markets closely and would quickly recognize market distress, flee, or providing another bailout for a fund or the fund industry. Based his read of Chairman Schapiro’s initial draft proposal and the dissenting comments of some of the Commissioners, the Senator believes that the SEC may be honing in on a solution that might work. Both proposals point out the benefits of some form of a redemption restriction. Some industry observers suggest a 3-5 percent withdrawal holdback for 30 days with a de minimis exception for small retail investors. Dissenting Commissioners appear to advocate a gating approach allowing some redemption restrictions managed by a fund’s board.
In the Senator’s view, there is common ground here around a set of rules that could stem a run and the potential need for government intervention. In the end, an optimal solution will be found if the SEC Commissioners and industry work together to find an appropriate structure that minimizes the risk of a wholesale run. Whatever that solution, he reasoned, reforms now are better than a taxpayer bailout down the road. Inaction is not an option, Senator Corker emphasized.  He urged the SEC to find an acceptable solution and move forward with a reform proposal along the lines indicated.