Federal Register: November 8, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 215)
DOCID: fr08no10-81 FR Doc 2010-28177
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Securities and Exchange Commission
ACTION: Order Of Suspension Of Trading:
DOCUMENT ACTION: Request for comment.
President's Working Group Report on Money Market Fund Reform
DATES: Comments should be received on or before January 10, 2011.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (``Commission'' or ``SEC'') is seeking comment on the options discussed in the report presenting the results of the President's Working Group on Financial Markets' study of possible money market fund reforms. Public comments on the options discussed in this report will help inform consideration of reform proposals addressing money market funds' susceptibility to runs.
President's Working Group Report on Money Market Fund Reform
I. The President's Working Group Report
Following the recommendation in the U.S. Department of the
Treasury's 2009 paper on Financial Regulatory Reform: A New Foundation,
the President's Working Group on Financial Markets (``PWG'') conducted
a study of possible reforms that might mitigate money market funds'
susceptibility to runs.\1\ The results of this study are included in
the report issued on October 21, 2010 and attached to this release as an Appendix (the ``Report'').\2\
\1\ The members of the PWG include the Secretary of the Treasury Department (as chairman of the PWG), the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Chairman of the SEC, and the Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. \2\ The Report is also available at http://treas.gov/press/ releases/docs/10.21%20PWG%20Report%20Final.pdf.
The Report expresses support for the new rules regulating money
market funds that the Commission approved last February.\3\ These new
rules seek to better protect money market fund investors in times of
financial market turmoil and lessen the possibility that money market
funds will not be able to withstand stresses similar to those
experienced in 2007 and 2008.\4\ When we adopted these rules, we
recognized that they were a first step to addressing regulatory
concerns as the events of 2007 and 2008 raised the question of whether
further, more fundamental changes to the regulatory structure governing money market funds may be warranted.\5\
\3\ Money Market Fund Reform, Investment Company Act Release No. 29132 (Feb. 23, 2010) [75 FR 10060 (Mar. 4, 2010)] (``SEC Adopting Release'').
\4\ The new rules further limit the credit, liquidity, and interest rate risks money market funds may assume and require fund managers to stress test their portfolios against potential economic shocks. They also require money market funds to improve their disclosure to investors and the Commission and provide a means to wind down the operations of a fund that ``breaks the buck'' or suffers a run, in an orderly way that is fair to the fund's investors and reduces the risk of market losses that could spread to other funds. For a discussion of the market stresses experienced by money market funds in 2007 and 2008, see Money Market Fund Reform, Investment Company Act Release No. 28807 (June 30, 2009) [74 FR 32688 (July 8, 2009)], at section II.D (``SEC Proposing Release''). \5\ See SEC Adopting Release, supra note 3, at section I. In proposing the new rules, we had requested comment on additional, more fundamental regulatory changes, including several of those discussed in the Report. See SEC Proposing Release, supra note 4, at section III. Following the adoption of the new rules, the Commission has continued to explore more significant changes in light of the comments received on that release and through our staff's work within the PWG.
The Report identifies the features that make money market funds
susceptible to runs as well as the systemic implications of the run on
prime money market funds that occurred in September 2008. The Report
states that the Commission's new rules alone could not be expected to
prevent a run of the type experienced in September 2008. Accordingly,
the Report outlines possible reforms that could supplement the new
rules we adopted and, individually or in combination, further reduce
money market funds' susceptibility to runs and the related systemic
risk. Some of the measures discussed in the Report could be implemented
by the Commission under our existing statutory authority; others would
require new legislation, coordination by multiple government agencies, or the creation of new private entities.\6\
\6\ In particular, the Report notes that reforms may be needed to avoid migration of institutional money market fund assets into unregulated or less regulated money market investment vehicles. Without new restrictions on such investment vehicles, money market reform may motivate some investors to shift assets into money market fund substitutes that may pose greater systemic risk than registered money market funds. See section 3.h of the Report.
II. Request for Comment
The Commission requests comment on the Report. Comments received will better enable the Commission and the newlyestablished Financial Stability Oversight Council (which will be taking over the work of the PWG in this area) to consider the options discussed in this Report to identify those most likely to materially reduce money market funds' susceptibility to runs and to pursue their implementation. As the Report states, we anticipate that following the comment period a series of meetings will be held in Washington, DC with various stakeholders, interested persons, experts, and regulators to discuss the options in the Report.
We request comments on the options described in the Report both
individually and in combination. Commenters should address the
effectiveness of the options in mitigating systemic risks associated
with money market funds, as well as their potential impact on money
market fund investors, fund managers, issuers of shortterm debt and
other stakeholders. We also are interested in comments on other issues
commenters believe are relevant to further money market fund reform,
including other approaches for lessening systemic risk not identified
in the Report. We urge commenters to submit empirical data and other information in support of their comments.
Dated: November 3, 2010.
By the Commission.
Elizabeth M. Murphy,
BILLING CODE 801101P
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Table of Contents
1. Introduction and Background
a. Money Market Funds
b. MMFs' Susceptibility to Runs
c. MMFs in the Recent Financial Crisis
2. The SEC's Changes to the Regulation of MMFs
a. SEC Regulatory Changes
b. Need for Further Reform To Reduce Susceptibility to Runs 3. Policy Options for Further Reducing the Risks of Runs on MMFs
a. Floating Net Asset Values
b. Private Emergency Liquidity Facility for MMFs
c. Mandatory Redemptions in Kind
d. Insurance for MMFs
e. A TwoTier System of MMFs, With Enhanced Protections for Stable NAV MMFs
f. A TwoTier System of MMFs, With Stable NAV MMFs Reserved for Retail Investors
g. Regulating Stable NAV MMFs as Special Purpose Banks
h. Enhanced Constraints on Unregulated MMF Substitutes Executive Summary
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 shortterm funding markets. These strains, in turn, threatened the broader economy, as firms and institutions dependent upon those markets for shortterm 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, shortterm funding markets remained disrupted for some time.
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 MMFswhich 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.
This report by the PWG responds to Treasury's call.\7\ 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 twotier 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.
\7\ The PWG (established by Executive Order 12631) is comprised of the Secretary of the Treasury (who serves as its Chairman), the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
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. A notice and request for comment will be published in the near future. Following a comment period, a series of meetings will be held in Washington, DC with various stakeholders, interested persons, experts, and regulators. MMFs Are Susceptible to Runs
MMFs are mutual funds. They are investment vehicles that act as intermediaries between shareholders who desire liquid investments and borrowers who seek term funding. With nearly $3 trillion in assets under management, MMFs are important providers of credit to businesses, financial institutions, and governments. In addition, these funds are significant investors in some shortterm funding markets.
Like other mutual funds, MMFs are regulated under the Investment Company Act of 1940 (ICA). In addition to ICA requirements for all mutual funds, MMFs must comply with SEC rule 2a7, which permits these funds to maintain a stable net asset value (NAV) per share, typically $1. However, if the marktomarket pershare value of a fund's assets falls more than onehalf of 1 percent (to below $0.995), the fund must reprice its shares, an event colloquially known as ``breaking the buck.''
The events of September 2008 demonstrated that MMFs are susceptible to runs. In addition, those events proved that runs on MMFs not only harm fund shareholders, but may also cause severe dislocations in shortterm funding markets that curtail shortterm financing for companies and financial institutions and that ultimately result in a decline in economic activity. Thus, reducing the susceptibility of MMFs to runs and mitigating the effects of possible runs are important components of the overall policy goals of decreasing and containing systemic risks.
MMFs are vulnerable to runs because shareholders have an incentive
to redeem their shares before others do when there is a perception that
the fund might suffer a loss. Several features of MMFs, their sponsors,
and their investors contribute to this incentive. For example, although
a stable, rounded $1 NAV fosters an expectation of safety, MMFs are
subject to credit, interestrate, and liquidity risks. Thus, when a fund
incurs even a small loss because of those risks, the stable, rounded NAV may subsidize shareholders who choose to redeem at the expense of the remaining shareholders. A larger loss that causes a fund's share price to drop below $1 per share (and thus break the buck) may prompt more substantial sudden, destabilizing redemptions. Moreover, although the expectations of safety fostered by the stable, rounded $1 NAV suggest parallels to an insured demand deposit account, MMFs have no formal capital buffers or insurance to prevent NAV declines; MMFs instead have relied historically on discretionary sponsor capital support to maintain stable NAVs. Accordingly, uncertainty about the availability of such support during crises may contribute to runs. Finally, because investors have come to view MMFs as extremely safe vehicles that meet all withdrawal requests on demand (and that are, in this sense, similar to banks), MMFs have attracted highly riskaverse investors who are particularly prone to flight when they perceive the possibility of a loss. These features likely mutually reinforce each other in times of crisis.
The SEC's New Rules
In January 2010, the SEC adopted new rules for MMFs in order to make these funds more resilient and less likely to break the buck. The regulatory changes that mitigate systemic risks fall into three principal categories. First, the new rules enhance risklimiting constraints on MMF portfolios by introducing new liquidity requirements, imposing additional creditquality standards, and reducing the maximum allowable weighted average maturity of funds' portfolios. Funds also are required to stress test their ability to maintain a stable NAV. Second, the SEC's new rules permit a fund that is breaking the buck to suspend redemptions promptly and liquidate its portfolio in an orderly manner to limit contagion effects on other funds. Third, the new rules place more stringent constraints on repurchase agreements that are collateralized with private debt instruments rather than government securities.
The Need for Further Measures
The SEC's new rules make MMFs more resilient and less risky and therefore reduce the likelihood of runs on MMFs, increase the size of runs that MMFs can withstand, and mitigate the systemic risks they pose. However, the SEC's new rules address only some of the features that make MMFs susceptible to runs, and more should be done to address systemic risk and the structural vulnerabilities of MMFs to runs. Indeed, the Chairman of the SEC characterized the new rules as ``a first step'' in strengthening MMFs, and Treasury's Financial Regulatory Reform: A New Foundation (2009) anticipated that measures taken by the SEC ``should not, by themselves, be expected to prevent a run on MMFs of the scale experienced in September 2008.''
Mitigating the risk of runs on MMFs is especially important because the events of September 2008 may have created an expectation that, in a future crisis, the government may provide support for MMFs at minimal cost in order to minimize harm to MMF investors, shortterm funding markets, and the economy. Persistent expectations of unpriced government support distort incentives in the MMF industry and pricing in shortterm funding markets, as well as heighten the systemic risk posed by MMFs. It is thus essential that MMFs be required to internalize fully the costs of liquidity or other risks associated with their operation.
In formulating reforms for MMFs, policymakers should aim primarily at mitigating systemic risk and containing the contagious effect that strains at individual MMFs can have on other MMFs and on the broad financial system. Importantly, preventing any individual MMF from ever breaking the buck is not a practical policy objectivethough the new SEC rules for MMFs should help ensure that such events remain rare and thus constitute a limited means of containing systemic risk. Policy Options
The policy options discussed in this report may help further
mitigate the susceptibility of MMFs to runs. Some of these options may
be adopted by the SEC under its existing authorities. Others would
require legislation and action by multiple government agencies and the MMF industry.
(a) Floating net asset values. A stable NAV has been a key element of the appeal of MMFs to investors, but a stable, rounded NAV also heightens funds' vulnerability to runs. Moving to a floating NAV would help remove the perception that MMFs are riskfree and reduce investors' incentives to redeem shares from distressed funds. However, the elimination of the stable NAV for MMFs would be a dramatic change for a nearly $3 trillion assetmanagement sector that has been built around the stable share price. Such a change may have several unintended consequences, including: (i) Reductions in MMFs' capacity to provide shortterm credit due to lower investor demand; (ii) a shift of assets to less regulated or unregulated MMF substitutes such as offshore MMFs, enhanced cash funds, and other stable value vehicles; and (iii) unpredictable investor responses as MMF NAVs begin to fluctuate more frequently.
(b) Private emergency liquidity facilities for MMFs. The liquidity risk of MMFs contributes importantly to their vulnerability to runs, and an external liquidity backstop to augment the SEC's new liquidity requirements for MMFs would help mitigate this risk. Such a backstop could buttress MMFs' ability to withstand outflows, internalize much of the liquidity protection costs for the MMF industry, offer efficiency gains from risk pooling, and reduce contagion effects. A liquidity facility would preserve fund advisers' incentives for not taking excessive risks because it would not protect funds from capital losses. As such, a liquidity facility alone may not prevent broader runs on MMFs triggered by concerns about widespread credit losses. Importantly, significant capacity, structure, pricing, and operational hurdles would have to be overcome to ensure that such a facility would be effective during crises, that it would not unduly distort incentives, and that it would not favor certain types of MMF business models.
(c) Mandatory redemptions in kind. When investors make large redemptions from MMFs, they may impose liquidity costs on other shareholders in the fund by forcing MMFs to sell assets in an untimely manner. A requirement that MMFs distribute large redemptions in kind, rather than in cash, would force these redeeming shareholders to bear their own liquidity costs and thus reduce the incentive to redeem. Depending on whether redeeming shareholders immediately sell the securities received, redemptions in kind may still generate market effects. Moreover, mandating redemptions in kind could present some operational and policy challenges. The SEC, for example, would have to make key judgments regarding when a fund must redeem in kind and how funds would fairly distribute portfolio securities.
(d) Insurance for MMFs. Treasury's Temporary Guarantee Program for Money Market Funds helped slow the run on MMFs in September 2008, and some form of insurance for MMF shareholders might be helpful in mitigating the risk of runs in MMFs. Unlike a private liquidity facility, insurance would limit credit losses to shareholders, so appropriate riskbased pricing would be critical in preventing insurance from distorting incentives,
but such pricing might be difficult to achieve in practice. The appropriate scope of coverage also presents a challenge; unlimited coverage would likely cause large shifts of assets from the banking sector to MMFs, but limited insurance might do little to reduce institutional investors' incentives to run from distressed MMFs. The optimal form for insurancewhether it would be private, public, or a mix of the twois also uncertain, particularly given the recent experience with private financial guarantees.
(e) A twotier system of MMFs with enhanced protection for stable NAV funds. Reforms aimed at reducing MMFs' susceptibility to runs may be particularly effective if they permit investors to select the types of MMFs that best balance their appetite for risk and their preference for yield. Policymakers could allow two types of MMFs: Stable NAV funds, which would be subject to enhanced protections such as, for example, required participation in a private liquidity facility or enhanced regulatory requirements; and floating NAV funds, which would have to comply with certain, but not all, rule 2a7 restrictions (and which would presumably offer higher yields). Because this twotier system would permit stable NAV funds to continue to be available, it would reduce the likelihood of a substantial decline in demand for MMFs and largescale shifts of assets toward unregulated vehicles. At the same time, the forms of protection encompassed by such a system would mitigate the risks associated with stable NAV funds. It would also avoid problems that might be encountered in transitioning the entire MMF industry to a floating NAV. Moreover, during a crisis, a twotier system might prevent large shifts of assets out of MMFsand a reduction in credit supplied by the fundsif investors simply shift assets from riskier floating NAV funds toward safer (because of the enhanced protections) stable NAV funds. However, implementation of such a twotier system would present the same challenges as the introduction of any individual enhanced protections (such as mandated access to a private emergency liquidity facility) that would be required for stable NAV funds, and the effectiveness of a twotier system would depend on investors' understanding the risks associated with each type of fund. (f) A twotier system of MMFs with stable NAV MMFs reserved for retail investors. Another approach to the twotier system already described could distinguish funds by investor type: Stable NAV MMFs could be made available only to retail investors, who could choose between stable NAV and floating NAV funds, while institutional investors would be restricted to floating NAV funds. The run on MMFs in September 2008 was almost exclusively due to redemptions from prime MMFs by institutional investors. Such investors typically have generated greater cashflow volatility for MMFs than retail investors and have been much quicker to redeem MMF shares from stable NAV funds opportunistically. Hence, this approach would mitigate risks associated with a stable NAV by addressing the investor base of stable NAV funds rather than by mandating other types of enhanced protections for those funds. Such a system also would protect the interests of retail investors by reducing the likelihood that a run might begin in institutional MMFs (as it did in September 2008) and spread to retail funds, while preserving the original purpose of MMFs, which was to provide retail investors with costeffective, diversified investments in money market instruments. This approach would require the SEC to define who would qualify as retail and institutional investors, and distinguishing those categories will present challenges. In addition, a prohibition on sales of stable NAV MMFs shares to institutional investors may have several of the same unintended consequences as a requirement that all MMFs adopt floating NAVs (see option (a) in this section).
(g) Regulating stable NAV MMFs as special purpose banks. Functional similarities between MMF shares and bank deposits, as well as the risk of runs on both, provide a rationale for requiring stable NAV MMFs to reorganize as special purpose banks (SPBs) subject to banking oversight and regulation. As banks, MMFs could have access to government insurance and lenderoflastresort facilities. An advantage of such a reorganization could be that it uses a wellunderstood regulatory framework for the mitigation of systemic risk. But while the conceptual basis for this option is fairly straightforward, its implementation might take a broad range of forms and would probably require legislation together with interagency coordination. An important hurdle for successful conversion of MMFs to SPBs may be the very large amounts of equity necessary to capitalize the new banks. In addition, to the extent that deposits in the new SPBs would be insured, the potential government liabilities through deposit insurance would be increased substantially, and the development of an appropriate pricing scheme for such insurance would present some of the same challenges as the pricing of deposit insurance. More broadly, the possible interactions between the new SPBs and the existing banking system would have to be studied carefully by policymakers.
(h) Enhanced constraints on unregulated MMF substitutes. New measures intended to mitigate MMF risks may also reduce the appeal of MMFs to many investors. While it is likely that some (particularly retail) investors may move their assets from MMFs to bank deposits if regulation of MMFs becomes too burdensome and meaningfully reduces MMF returns, others may be motivated to shift assets to unregulated funds with stable NAVs, such as offshore MMFs, enhanced cash funds, and other stable value vehicles. Such funds, which typically hold assets similar to those held by MMFs, are vulnerable to runs but are less transparent and less constrained than MMFs, so their growth would likely pose systemic risks. Hence, effective mitigation of this risk may require policy reforms targeting regulatory arbitrage. Reforms of this type generally would require legislation and action by the SEC and other agencies.
1. Introduction and Background
a. Money Market Funds
MMFs are mutual funds that offer individuals, businesses, and governments a convenient and costeffective means of pooled investing in money market instruments. MMFs provide an economically important service by acting as intermediaries between shareholders who desire liquid investments, often for cash management, and borrowers who seek term funding.
With nearly $3 trillion in assets under management, MMFs are important providers of credit to businesses, financial institutions, and governments. Indeed, these funds play a dominant role in some shortterm credit markets. For example, MMFs own almost 40 percent of outstanding commercial paper, roughly twothirds of shortterm state and local government debt, and significant portions of outstanding shortterm Treasury and federal agency securities.
Like other mutual funds, MMFs are regulated under the Investment
Company Act of 1940 (ICA). In addition to the requirements applicable
to other funds under the ICA, MMFs must comply with rule 2a7, which permits these funds to maintain a ``stable'' net
asset value (NAV) per share, typically $1, through the use of the ``amortized cost'' method of valuation. Under this method, securities are valued at acquisition cost, with adjustments for amortization of premium or accretion of discount, instead of at fair market value. To prevent substantial deviations between the $1 share price and the mark tomarket pershare value of the fund's assets (its ``shadow NAV''), a MMF must periodically compare the two. If there is a difference of more than onehalf of 1 percent (or $0.005 per share), the fund must re price its shares, an event colloquially known as ``breaking the buck.''
Historically, the stable NAV has played an important role in distinguishing MMFs from other mutual funds and in facilitating the use of MMFs as cash management vehicles. Rule 2a7 also imposes credit quality, maturity, and diversification requirements on MMF portfolios designed to ensure that the funds' investing remains consistent with the objective of maintaining a stable NAV. A MMF's $1 share price is not guaranteed through any form of deposit or other insurance, or otherwiseindeed, MMF prospectuses must state that shares can lose value. However, by permitting amortized cost valuation, rule 2a7 affords MMFs price stability under normal market conditions.
MMFs pursue a range of investment objectives, with corresponding differences in portfolio composition. For example, taxexempt MMFs purchase shortterm municipal securities and offer taxexempt income to fund shareholders, while Treasuryonly MMFs hold only obligations of the U.S. Treasury. In contrast, prime MMFs invest largely in private debt instruments, such as commercial paper and certificates of deposit, and, commensurate with the greater risks in prime MMF portfolios, they generally pay higher yields than Treasuryonly funds.
MMFs are marketed both to retail investors (that is, individuals), for whom MMFs are the only means of investing in many money market instruments, and to institutions, which are often attracted by the convenience and cost efficiency of MMFs, even though many institutional investors have the ability to invest directly in the instruments held by MMFs. Institutional MMFs, which currently account for about two thirds of the assets under management in MMFs, have grown much faster, on net, in the past two decades than retail funds. The rapid growth of institutional funds has important implications for the MMF industry, because institutional funds tend to have more volatile flows and more yieldsensitive shareholders than retail funds.
MMFs compete with other stablevalue, lowrisk investments. Because
MMFs generally maintain stable NAVs, offer redemptions on demand, and
often provide services that compete with those offered to holders of
insured deposits (such as transactions services), many retail customers
likely consider MMF shares and bank deposits as near substitutes, even
if the two classes of products are fundamentally different (most
notably because MMF shares are not insured and because MMFs and banks
are subject to very different regulatory regimes). Some institutional
investors may also view bank deposits and MMFs as near substitutes,
although usual limitations on deposit insurance coverage and interest
payments on deposits likely reduce the attractiveness of bank deposits
for most such investors.\8\ Institutional investors also have access to
lessregulated MMF substitutes (for example, offshore MMFs, enhanced
cash funds, and other stable value vehicles) and may perceive them as
near substitutes for MMFs, even if those vehicles are not subject to the protections afforded by rule 2a7.
\8\ Under the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's (FDIC) Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program, coverage limits on
noninterestbearing transaction deposits in FDICinsured
institutions were temporarily lifted beginning in October 2008 and coverage will extend through 2010. Effective December 31, 2010, pursuant to the DoddFrank Wall Street Reform and Consumer
Protection Act, Public Law 111203, (``DoddFrank Act''), all noninterestbearing transaction deposits will have unlimited coverage until January 1, 2013. In addition, section 627 of the DoddFrank Act repeals the prohibition on banks paying interest on corporate demand deposit accounts effective July 21, 2011.
b. MMFs' Susceptibility to Runs
In the twentyseven years since the adoption of rule 2a7, only two
MMFs have broken the buck. In 1994, a small MMF suffered a capital loss
because of exposures to interest rate derivatives, but the event passed
without significant repercussions. In contrast, as further discussed
later, when the Reserve Primary Fund broke the buck in September 2008,
it helped ignite a massive run on prime MMFs that contributed to severe
dislocations in shortterm credit markets and strains on the businesses and institutions that obtain funding in those markets.\9\
\9\ Section 1(c) contains more detail on the MMF industry's experience during the recent financial crisis.
Although the run on MMFs in 2008 is itself unique in the history of
the industry, the events of 2008 underscored the susceptibility of MMFs
to runs. That susceptibility arises because, when shareholders perceive
a risk that a fund will suffer losses, each shareholder has an
incentive to redeem shares before other shareholders. Five features of
MMFs, their sponsors, and their investors principally contribute to this incentive:
(i) Maturity transformation with limited liquidity resources. One important economic function of MMFs is their role as intermediaries between shareholders who want liquid investments and borrowers who desire term funding. As such, MMFs offer shares that are payable on demand, but they invest both in cashlike instruments and in shortterm securities that are less liquid, including, for example, term commercial paper. Redemptions in excess of MMFs' cashlike liquidity may force funds to sell less liquid assets. When money markets are strained, funds may not be able to obtain full value (that is, amortized cost) for such assets in secondary markets and may incur losses as a consequence. Investors thus have an incentive to redeem shares before a fund has depleted its cashlike instruments (which serve as its liquidity buffer).
(ii) NAVs rounded to $1. Share prices of MMFs are rounded to the nearest cent, typically resulting in a $1 NAV per share. The rounding fosters an expectation that MMF share prices will not fluctuate, which exacerbates investors' incentive to run when there is risk that prices will fluctuate. When a MMF that has experienced a small (less than one half of 1 percent) capital loss redeems shares at the full $1 NAV, it concentrates the loss among the remaining shareholders. Thus, redemptions from such a fund further depress the market value of its assets per share outstanding (its shadow NAV), and redemptions of sufficient scale may cause the fund to break the buck. Early redeemers are therefore more likely to receive the usual $1 NAV than those who wait.
(iii) Portfolios exposed to credit and interest rate risks. MMFs invest in securities with credit and interestrate risks. Although these risks are generally small given the short maturity of the securities and the high degree of portfolio diversification, even a small capital loss, in combination with other features of MMFs, can trigger a significant volume of redemptions. The events of September 2008when losses on Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc. (Lehman Brothers) debt instruments caused just one MMF to break the buck and triggered a broad run on MMFshighlight the fact that credit losses at
even a single fund may have serious implications for the whole industry and consequently for the entire financial system.\10\
\10\ Souring credits and rapid increases in interest rates have adversely affected MMFs on other occasions. For example, beginning in the summer of 2007, MMF exposures to structured investment vehicles and other assetbacked commercial paper caused capital losses at many MMFs, and many MMF sponsors voluntarily provided capital support that prevented some funds from breaking the buck. (iv) Discretionary sponsor capital support. MMFs invest in assets that may lose value, but the funds have no formal capital buffers or insurance to maintain their $1 share prices in the event of a loss on a portfolio asset.
The MMF industry's record of maintaining a stable NAV reflects, in
part, substantial discretionary intervention by MMF sponsors (that is,
fund advisers, their affiliates, and their parent firms) to support
funds that otherwise might have broken the buck.\11\ Sponsors do not
commit to support an MMF in advance, because an explicit commitment may
require the sponsor to consolidate the fund on its balance sheet and
if the sponsor is subject to regulatory capital requirementshold
additional regulatory capital against the contingent exposure. Nor is
there any requirement that sponsors support ailing MMFs; such a mandate
would transform the nature of MMF shares by shifting risks from
investors to sponsors and probably would require government supervision
and monitoring of sponsors' resources and capital adequacy.\12\
Instead, sponsor capital support remains expressly voluntary, and not
all MMFs have a sponsor capable of fully supporting its MMFs.
Nonetheless, a long history of such support probably has contributed substantially to the perceived safety of MMFs.
\11\ For example, more than 100 MMFs received sponsor capital support in 2007 and 2008 because of investments in securities that lost value and because of the run on MMFs in September and October 2008. See Securities and Exchange Commission (2009) ``Money Market Reform: Proposed Rule,'' pp. 1314, 17, and notes 38 and 54. \12\ Even discretionary support for MMFs may lead to concerns about the safety and soundness of MMF sponsors. Sponsors that foster expectations of such support may be granting a form of implicit recourse that is not reflected on sponsors' balance sheets or in their regulatory capital ratios, and such implicit recourse may contribute to broader systemic risk.
However, the possibility that sponsors may become unwilling or
unable to provide expected support during a crisis is itself a source
of systemic risk. Indeed, sponsor support is probably least reliable
when systemic risks are most salient.\13\ Moreover, MMFs without deep
pocketed sponsors remain vulnerable to runs that can affect the entire
industry. The Reserve Primary Fund was not the only MMF that held
Lehman Brothers debt at the time of the Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy in
September 2008, but it broke the buck because the Reserve Primary Fund,
unlike some of its competitors, had substantial holdings of Lehman
Brothers debt and Reserve did not have the resources to support its
fund. Investors also recognized the riskiness of sponsor support more
broadly during the run on MMFs in 2008. For example, outflows from
prime MMFs following the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy tended to be larger
among MMFs with sponsors that were themselves under strain (as measured
by credit default swap spreads for parent firms or affiliates),
indicating that MMF investors quickly redeemed shares on concerns about sponsors' potential inabilities to bolster ailing funds.
\13\ Other forms of discretionary financial support, such as that provided by dealers for auction rate securities, did not fare well during the financial crisis.
(v) Investors' low risk tolerance and expectations. Investors have come to view MMF shares as extremely safe, in part because of the funds' stable NAVs and sponsors' record of supporting funds that might otherwise lose value. MMFs' history of maintaining stable value has attracted highly riskaverse investors who are prone to withdraw assets rapidly when losses appear possible.
MMFs, like other mutual funds, commit to redeem shares based on the fund's NAV at the time of redemption. MMFs are under no legal or regulatory requirement to redeem shares at $1; rule 2a7 only requires that MMFs be managed to maintain a stable NAV. Yet sponsorsupported stable, rounded NAVs and the typical $1 MMF share price foster investors' impressions that MMFs are extremely safe investments. Indeed, the growth of retail MMFs in recent decades may have reflected some substitution from insured deposits at commercial banks, thrifts, and credit unions, particularly as MMFs have offered transactions services and other banklike functions. Although MMF shares, unlike bank deposits, are not government insured and are not backed by capital to absorb losses, this distinction may have become even less clear to retail investors following the unprecedented government support of MMFs in 2008 and 2009. Furthermore, that recent support may have left even sophisticated institutional investors with the mistaken impression that MMF safety is enhanced because the government stands ready to support the industry again with the same tools employed at the height of the financial crisis.
The growth of institutional MMFs in recent years probably has heightened both the risk aversion of the typical MMF shareholder and the volatility of MMF cash flows. Many institutional investors cannot tolerate fluctuations in share prices for a variety of reasons. In addition, institutional investors are typically more sophisticated than retail investors in obtaining and analyzing information about MMF portfolios and risks, have larger amounts at stake, and hence are quicker to respond to events that may threaten the stable NAV. In fact, institutional MMFs have historically experienced much more volatile flows than retail funds. During the run on MMFs in September 2008, institutional funds accounted for more than 90 percent of the net redemptions from prime MMFs.
The interaction of these five features is critical. Taken alone, each of the features just listed probably would only modestly increase the vulnerability of MMFs to runs, but, in combination, the features tend to amplify and reinforce one another. For example, equity mutual funds perform maturity transformation and take on capital risks, but even after large capital losses, outflows from equity funds tend to be small relative to assets, most likely because equity funds are not marketed for their ability to maintain stable NAVs, do not attract the riskaverse investor base that characterizes MMFs, and offer the opportunity for capital appreciation. If MMFs with rounded NAVs had lacked sponsor support over the past few decades, many might have broken the buck and diminished the expectation of a stable $1 share price. In that case, investors who nonetheless elected to hold shares in such funds might have become more tolerant of risk and less inclined to run. If MMFs had attracted primarily a retail investor base rather than an institutional base, investors might be slower to respond to strains on a MMF. And even a highly riskaverse investor base would not necessarily make MMFs susceptible to runsand to contagion arising from runs on other MMFsif funds had a credible means to guarantee their $1 NAVs. Thus, policy responses that diminish the reinforcing interactions among the features discussed herein hold promise for muting overall risks posed by MMFs.
c. MMFs in the Recent Financial Crisis
The turmoil in financial markets in 2007 and 2008 caused severe
strains both among MMFs and in the shortterm debt markets in which
MMFs invest. Beginning in mid2007, dozens of funds faced losses from holdings of highly
rated assetbacked commercial paper (ABCP) issued by structured investment vehicles (SIVs), some of which had exposures to the subprime mortgage market. Fear of such losses at one MMF caused that fund to experience a substantial run in August 2007, which was brought under control when the fund's sponsor purchased more than $5 billion of illiquid securities from the fund. Indeed, financial support from MMF sponsors in recent years probably prevented a number of funds from breaking the buck because of losses on SIV paper.
The crisis for MMFs worsened considerably in September 2008 with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers on September 15 and mounting concerns about other issuers of commercial paper, particularly financial firms. The Reserve Primary Fund, a $62 billion MMF, held $785 million in Lehman Brothers debt on the day of Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy and immediately began experiencing a runshareholders requested redemptions of approximately $40 billion in just two days. In order to meet the redemptions, the Reserve Primary Fund depleted its cash reserves and began seeking to sell its portfolio securities, which further depressed their valuations. Unlike other MMFs that held distressed securities, the Reserve Primary Fund had no affiliate with sufficient resources to support its $1 NAV, and Reserve announced on September 16 that its Primary Fund would break the buck and reprice its shares at $0.97. On September 22, the SEC issued an order permitting the suspension of redemptions in certain Reserve MMFs to permit their orderly liquidation.
The run quickly spread to other prime MMFs, which held sizable amounts of financial sector debt that investors feared might decline rapidly in value. During the week of September 15, 2008, investors withdrew approximately $310 billion (15 percent of assets) from prime MMFs, with the heaviest redemptions coming from institutional funds. To meet these redemption requests, MMFs depleted their cash positions and sought to sell portfolio securities into already illiquid markets. These efforts caused further declines in the prices of shortterm instruments and put pressure on pershare values of fund portfolios, threatening MMFs' stable NAVs. Nonetheless, only one MMFthe Reserve Primary Fundbroke the buck, because many MMF sponsors provided substantial financial support to prevent capital losses in their funds.
Fearing further redemptions, many MMF advisers limited new portfolio investments to cash, U.S. Treasury securities, and overnight instruments, and avoided term commercial paper, certificates of deposit, and other shortterm credit instruments. During September 2008, MMFs reduced their holdings of commercial paper by about $170 billion (25 percent). As market participants hoarded cash and refused to lend to one another on more than an overnight basis, interest rates spiked and shortterm credit markets froze. Commercial paper issuers were required to make significant draws on their backup lines of credit, placing additional pressure on the balance sheets of commercial banks.
On September 19, 2008, Treasury and the Board of Governors of the
Federal Reserve System (Federal Reserve) announced two unprecedented
market interventions to stabilize MMFs and to provide liquidity to
shortterm funding markets. Treasury's Temporary Guarantee Program for
Money Market Funds temporarily provided guarantees for shareholders in
MMFs that elected to participate in the program.\14\ The Federal
Reserve's AssetBacked Commercial Paper Money Market Mutual Fund
Liquidity Facility (AMLF) extended credit to U.S. banks and bank
holding companies to finance their purchases of highquality ABCP from MMFs.\15\
\14\ MMFs that elected to participate in the program paid fees of 4 to 6 basis points at an annual rate for the guarantee. The Temporary Guarantee Program for Money Market Funds expired on September 18, 2009.
\15\ The AMLF expired on February 1, 2010.
The announcements of these government programs substantially slowed
the run on prime MMFs. Outflows from prime MMFs diminished to about $65
billion in the week after the announcements and, by midOctober, these
MMFs began attracting net inflows. Moreover, in the weeks following the
government interventions, markets for commercial paper and other short term debt instruments stabilized considerably.\16\
\16\ Several other unprecedented government interventions that provided additional support for the MMF industry and for shortterm funding markets were introduced after the run on MMFs had largely abated. For example, the Federal Reserve in October 2008 established the Commercial Paper Funding Facility (CPFF), which provided loans for purchases (through a special purpose vehicle) of term commercial paper from issuers. The CPFF, which expired on February 1, 2010, helped issuers repay investorssuch as MMFswho held maturing paper. Also in October 2008, the Federal Reserve announced the Money Market Investor Funding Facility (MMIFF), which was intended to bolster liquidity for MMFs by financing (through special purpose vehicles) purchases of securities from the funds. The MMIFF was never used and expired on October 30, 2009. In November 2008, Treasury agreed to become a buyer of last resort for certain securities held by the Reserve U.S. Government Fund (a MMF), in order to facilitate an orderly and timely liquidation of the fund. Under the agreement, Treasury would purchase certain securities issued by government sponsored enterprises at amortized cost (not mark to market), and $3.6 billion of such purchases were completed in January 2009.
2. The SEC's Changes to the Regulation of MMFs
The effects of the financial turmoil in 2007 and 2008 on MMFsand, in particular, the run on these funds in September 2008 and its consequenceshave highlighted the need for reforms to mitigate the systemic risks posed by MMFs. Appropriate reforms include changes to MMF regulations as well as broader policy actions. This section first examines rule changes that have been adopted by the SEC to improve the safety and resilience of MMFs and then discusses some limitations in these measures' mitigation of systemic risk and the need for further reforms.
Notwithstanding the need for reform, the significance of MMFs in the U.S. financial system suggests that changes must be considered carefully. Tighter restrictions on MMFs might, for example, lead to a reduction in the supply of shortterm credit, a shift in assets to substitute investment vehicles that are subject to less regulation than MMFs, and significant impairment of an important cashmanagement tool for investors. Moreover, the economic importance of risktaking by MMFsas lenders in private debt markets and as investments that appeal to shareholders' preferences for risk and returnsuggests that the appropriate objective for reform should not be to eliminate all risks posed by MMFs. Attempting to prevent any fund from ever breaking the buck would be an impractical goal that might lead, for example, to draconian andfrom a broad economic perspectivecounterproductive measures, such as outright prohibitions on purchases of private debt instruments and securities with maturities of more than one day. Instead, policymakers should balance the benefits of allowing individual MMFs to take some risks and facilitating private and public borrowers' access to term financing in money markets with the broader objective of mitigating systemic risksin particular, the risk that one fund's problems may cause serious harm to other MMFs, their shareholders, shortterm funding markets, the financial system, and the economy.
a. SEC Regulatory Changes
In January 2010, the SEC adopted new rules regulating MMFs in order to make these funds more resilient to market
disruptions and thus less likely to break the buck. The new rules also might help reduce the likelihood of runs on MMFs by facilitating the orderly liquidation of funds that have broken the buck. The SEC designed the new rules primarily to meet its statutory obligations under the ICA to protect investors and promote capital formation. Nonetheless, the rules should mitigate (although not eliminate) systemic risks by reducing the susceptibility of MMFs to runs, both by lessening the likelihood that an individual fund will break the buck and by containing the damage should one break the buck. The rule changes fall into three principal categories.
(i) Enhanced RiskLimiting Constraints on Money Market Fund Portfolios. Each of the changes that follow further constrains risk taking by MMFs.
Liquidity Risk. One of the most important SEC rule changes aimed at reducing systemic risk associated with MMFs is a requirement that each fund maintain a substantial liquidity cushion. Augmented liquidity should position MMFs to better withstand heavy redemptions without selling portfolio securities into potentially distressed markets at discounted prices. Forced ``fire sales'' to meet heavy redemptions may cause losses not only for the fund that must sell the securities, but also for other MMFs that hold the same or similar securities. Thus, a substantial liquidity cushion should help reduce the risk that strains on one MMF will be transmitted to other funds and to shortterm credit markets.
Specifically, the SEC's new rules require that MMFs maintain
minimum daily and weekly liquidity positions. Daily liquidity, which
must be at least 10 percent of a MMF's assets, includes cash, U.S.
Treasury obligations, and securities (including repurchase agreements)
that mature or for which the fund has a contractual right to obtain
cash within a day. Weekly liquidity, which must be at least 30 percent
of each MMF's assets, includes cash, securities that mature or can be
converted to cash within a week, U.S. Treasury obligations, and
securities issued by federal government agencies and government
sponsored enterprises with remaining maturities of 60 days or less.\17\
Furthermore, the new rules require MMF advisers to maintain larger
liquidity buffers as necessary to meet reasonably foreseeable redemptions.
\17\ Taxexempt money market funds are exempt from daily minimum liquidity requirements but not the weekly minimum liquidity requirements, because most taxexempt fund portfolios consist of longerterm floating and variablerate securities with sevenday ``put'' options that effectively give the funds weekly liquidity. Taxexempt funds are unlikely to have investment alternatives that would permit them to meet a daily liquidity requirement.
Credit Risk. The new rules reduce MMFs' maximum allowable holdings
of ``secondtier'' securities, which carry more credit risk than first
tier securities, to no more than 3 percent of each fund's assets.\18\
In addition, a MMF's exposure to a single secondtier issuer is now
limited to onehalf of 1 percent of the fund's assets, and funds can
only purchase secondtier securities with maturities of 45 days or
less. These new constraints reduce the likelihood that individual funds
will be exposed to a credit event that could cause the funds to break
the buck. Also, since secondtier securities often trade in thinner
markets, these changes should improve the ability of individual MMFs to maintain a stable NAV during periods of market volatility.
\18\ Under SEC rule 2a7, for shortterm debt securities to qualify as secondtier securities, they generally must have received the second highest shortterm debt rating from the credit rating agencies or be of comparable quality. Section 939A of the DoddFrank Act requires that government agencies remove references to credit ratings in their rules and replace them with other credit standards that the agency determines appropriate. As a result, the SEC will be reconsidering this rule and its provisions relating to secondtier securities to comply with this statutory mandate.
Interest Rate Risk. By reducing the maximum allowable weighted
average maturity (WAM) of fund portfolios from 90 days to 60 days, the
new rules are intended to diminish funds' exposure to interest rate
risk and increase the liquidity of fund portfolios. The SEC also
introduced a new weighted average life (WAL) measure for MMFsand set
a ceiling for WAL at 120 daysin order to lower funds' exposure to
interestrate, credit, and liquidity risks associated with the floatingrate obligations that MMFs commonly hold.\19\
\19\ For purposes of computing WAM, a floatingrate security's ``maturity'' can be its next interestrate reset date. In computing WAL, the life of a security is determined solely by its final maturity date. Hence, WAL should be more useful than WAM in reflecting the risks of widening spreads on longerterm floating rate securities.
Stress Testing. Finally, the SEC's new rules require fund advisers
to periodically stress test their funds' ability to maintain a stable
NAV per share based on certain hypothetical events, including a change
in shortterm interest rates, an increase in shareholder redemptions, a
downgrade or default of a portfolio security, and a change in interest
rate spreads. Regular and methodical monitoring of these risks and
their potential effects should help funds weather stress without incident.
(ii) Facilitating Orderly Fund Liquidations. The new SEC rules should reduce the systemic risk posed by MMFs by permitting a fund that is breaking the buck to promptly suspend redemptions and liquidate its portfolio in an orderly manner. This new rule should help prevent a capital loss at one fund from forcing a disorderly sale of portfolio securities that might disrupt shortterm markets and diminish share values of other MMFs. Moreover, the ability of a fund to suspend redemptions should help prevent investors who redeem shares from benefiting at the expense of those who remain invested in a fund. (iii) Repurchase Agreements. The SEC's new rules place more stringent constraints on repurchase agreements that are collateralized with private debt instruments rather than cash equivalents or government securities. MMFs are among the largest purchasers of repurchase agreements, which they use to invest cash, typically on an overnight basis. Because the collateral usually consists of longterm debt securities, a MMF cannot hold the securities underlying this collateral without violating SEC rules that limit MMF holdings to shortterm obligations. Accordingly, if a significant counterparty fails to repurchase securities as stipulated in a repurchase agreement, its MMF counterparties can be expected to direct custodians to sell the collateral immediately, and sales of private debt instruments could be sizable and disruptive to financial markets. To address this risk, the SEC's new rule places additional constraints on MMFs' exposure to counterparties through repurchase agreement transactions that are collateralized by securities other than cash equivalents or government securities.
b. Need for Further Reform To Reduce Susceptibility to Runs
The new SEC rules make MMFs more resilient and less risky and
therefore reduce the likelihood of runs on funds, increase the size of
runs that they could withstand, and mitigate the systemic risks they pose. However, more can be done to address the structural
vulnerabilities of MMFs to runs. Indeed, the Chairman of the SEC characterized its new rules as ``a first step'' in strengthening MMFs and noted that a number of additional possible reforms (many of which are presented in section 3 of this report) are under discussion. Likewise, Treasury's Financial Regulatory Reform: A New Foundation (2009) anticipated that measures taken by the SEC ``should not, by themselves, be expected to prevent a run on MMFs of the scale experienced in September 2008.''
Of the five features that make MMFs vulnerable to runs (see section 1(b)), the two most directly addressed in the new SEC rules are liquidity risks associated with maturity transformation and MMF portfolios' exposures to credit and interestrate risks. The SEC's new rules should substantially reduce these risks, but systemic risks arising from the other features of MMFs and their investorsthe stable, rounded NAV, a system of discretionary sponsor support, and a highly riskaverse investor basestill remain, as do many of the amplifying interaction effects. Some mitigation of the destabilizing effects that one or a few MMFs can impose on the rest of the industry through contagion might be achievable through further modifications to rule 2a7 and other SEC rules. Importantly, however, other reforms that could more substantially reduce the risk of contagion and that, as such, merit further consideration, would require action beyond what the SEC could achieve under its current authority.
Mitigating the risk of runs before another liquidity crisis materializes is especially important because the events of September 2008 may have induced expectations of government assistance at minimal cost in case of severe financial strains. Market participants know, and recent events have confirmed, that when runs on MMFs occur, the government will face substantial pressure to intervene in some manner to minimize the propagation of financial strains to shortterm funding markets and to the real economy. Importantly, such interventions would be intended not only to reduce harm to MMF investors but also to prevent disruptions of markets for commercial paper and other short term financing instruments, which are critical for the functioning of the economy. Therefore, if further measures to insulate the industry from systemic risk are not taken before the next liquidity crisis, market participants will likely expect that the government would provide emergency support at minimal cost for MMFs during the next crisis. Such market expectations of (hypothetical) future nonpriced or subsidized government support would distort incentives for MMFs and prices in shortterm funding markets and would potentially increase the systemic risk posed by MMFs. To forestall these perverse effects, it is thus imperative that MMFs be required to internalize fully the costs of liquidity or other risks associated with their operation.
MMF regulatory reform in light of the run on MMFs in September and October 2008. The run on MMFs in 2008 provides some important lessons for evaluating potential reforms for mitigating systemic risk. For example, the triggering events of the run and the magnitude of the outflows that followed underscore the difficulty of designing reforms that might prevent runs and the associated damage to the financial system.
Making each individual MMF robust enough to survive a crisis of the
size of that experienced in 2008 may not be an appropriate policy
objective because it would unduly limit risk taking. Indeed, although
the SEC's tightening of restrictions on the liquidity, interestrate,
and credit risks borne by individual MMFs will be helpful in making
MMFs more resilient to future strains, there are practical limits to
the degree of systemic risk mitigation that can be achieved through
further restrictions of this type. For example, an objective of
preventing any MMF from breaking the buck probably would not be
feasible for funds that invest in private debt markets. Changes that
would prevent funds from breaking the buck due to a single Lehman
Brotherslike exposure would have to be severe: Only limiting funds'
exposures to each issuer to less than onehalf of 1 percent of assets
would prevent a precipitous drop in the value of any single issuer's
debt from causing a MMF to break the buck.\20\ But even such a limit on
exposure to a single issuer would not address the risk that MMFs may
accumulate exposures to distinct but highly correlated issuers, and
that funds would remain vulnerable to events that cause the debt of multiple issuers to lose value.
\20\ At the time of its bankruptcy, Lehman Brothers' shortterm debt was still a firsttier security, so MMFs were able to hold up to 5 percent of their assets in Lehman Brothers' debt. The SEC's new rules do not affect this limit.
Beyond diversification limits, new rules to protect MMFs from material credit losses would be difficult to craft unless regulators take the extreme step of eliminating funds' ability to hold any risky assets. But that approach would be clearly undesirable, as it would adversely affect many firms that obtain shortterm financing through commercial paper and similar instruments. In addition, such an extreme approach would deny many retail investors any opportunity to obtain exposure to private money market instruments and most likely would motivate some institutional investors to shift assets from MMFs to less regulated vehicles.
Similarly, liquidity requirements sufficient to cover all redemption scenarios for MMFs probably would be impractical and inefficient. The SEC's new liquidity requirements help mitigate liquidity risks borne by the funds, and if MMFs had held enough liquid assets in September 2008 to meet the new liqu
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT
Daniele Marchesani or Sarah ten Siethoff at (202) 5516792, Division of Investment Management, Securities and Exchange Commission, 100 F Street, NE., Washington, DC 205498549.