SEC to vote next week on floating share for riskier money funds

Failure of $62.5 billion Reserve Primary Fund sparked move

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission will vote next week on a proposal that would require a floating-share value for the riskiest type of money-market mutual funds, two people briefed on the matter said.

The floating-share proposal would apply only to funds that buy corporate debt and cater to institutional clients, said the people, who asked not to be named because details of the proposal haven’t been made public. The commission announced in a notice posted on its website yesterday that it would meet on June 5 to consider rules governing money-market funds.

The proposal is the SEC’s response to the role that money funds played in the 2008 financial crisis, when investors fled from “prime” funds, whose holdings include short-term corporate debt such as commercial paper. The failure of the $62.5 billion Reserve Primary Fund, caused by losses on debt issued by Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., triggered a wider run on money funds that helped freeze global credit markets.

Money funds, which hold $2.6 trillion in assets, are now allowed to keep a stable value of $1 a share, which makes them appealing to investors and companies that use them like cash accounts. SEC Chairman Mary Jo White has said any changes to money funds would maintain their value to investors.

Supporters of a floating-share price for money funds say it would limit runs by conditioning investors to accept that the value of an investment will vary. The money-fund industry has said a floating-share price would destroy the appeal of money funds, although the fund industry’s trade association issued a more measured statement yesterday.

‘Extensive Research’

“We look forward to seeing the rule proposal on money market funds that the commission plans to consider at next week’s meeting,” Mike McNamee, an Investment Company Institute spokesman, said in the statement. “We expect this proposal will reflect the extensive research and discussion among commissioners and staff since last summer.”

The proposal appears to have support among commissioners. Commissioner Luis A. Aguilar has said the new proposal is improved over a version that commissioners discussed, but never voted on, in 2012 under former Chairman Mary Schapiro. Aguilar said May 9 that he hadn’t found anything objectionable in the proposal.

Commissioner Elisse B. Walter told reporters last week that she likes the proposal. She declined to describe its substance before it is made public.

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