On April 7, 2020, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) announced an update to the EDGAR system that would allow negative values to be entered in Item C.17 of Form N-MFP. Money market funds use Form N-MFP to report information to the SEC as of the end of each month. Item C.17 requires, for each security held by the fund, “[t]he yield of the security as of the reporting date.” The change was prompted by the recent downturn in rates for one-month and three-months Treasury bills, which may also have prompted some Treasury money market funds to restrict new investments.
Continue Reading A Negative Sign of the Times: Form N-MFP Can Report Negative Yields

The convergence of several events makes this an appropriate time to reassess the impact of the SEC’s 2014 money market fund reforms (the “Reforms”). First, the SEC has released official money market fund (“money fund”) statistics for October 2019, three years after the effective date of the Reforms. Second, total money fund assets are very near $4 trillion, just over $1 trillion higher than they were before the SEC adopted the reforms in July 2014. Third, prime money fund assets are back over $1 trillion. Finally, former Fed Chairman Volcker, an implacable opponent of money funds, recently passed away.

Money funds have demonstrated remarkable resilience in the face of zero interest rates, FSOC activism, and Chairman Volcker’s critiques. What else might we discern from the post-Reform state of money funds.

Continue Reading Money Market Fund Reforms Three Years On

In a previous post, I noted that recent changes to Rule 2a-7 hit tax exempt money market funds hard, with the loss of half of their pre-reform assets. There are reasons to think these funds will recover, however. Foremost, prior to the post-election surge in interest rates, tax exempt funds were out-yielding every other type of money market fund. According Crane Data, tax exempt funds (which are nearly all retail) out-yielded both institutional and retail prime funds, to say nothing of government funds. These are pre-tax yields; on an after-tax basis, tax exempt funds offer very competitive yields.

Continue Reading Why Tax Exempt Money Market Funds Should Make a Comeback

(This post has been updated for October 31st data.)

The SEC released its money market fund statistics for the end of October, giving us a comprehensive view of the impact of the reforms which took effect on October 14th. We now have government, retail and floating NAV money market funds, the later two with the potential for liquidity fees and redemption gates. The Wall Street Journal has run a number of stories about the “unintended” consequences of the reforms. The impact on the funds has been entirely consistent with the comments the SEC received on the proposed reforms–so this outcome should have been expected. By the time the dust fully settles, FSOC may have momentarily succeeded in its objective of reducing the assets of prime money market funds to a level where they cannot pose a threat to the stability of the financial system, assuming they ever did.
Continue Reading What Hath FSOC Wrought?

In my recent article on money market fund reforms, I observed:

The minimal credit risk determination for ABS [an Asset-Backed Security] should identify every entity on whose financial strength the fund will rely; the illiquid security determination should identify to whom the fund might sell the ABS in seven days. A fund may exclude any entity not so identified from further consideration as a potential guarantor of the ABS.

Wait a minute, writes a credit analyst:
Continue Reading What Does Liquidity Have to Do with Diversification?

Yesterday, the SEC adopted what I hope will be the final amendments to Rule 2a-7 made during my career. For the first time in the history of Rule 2a-7, the SEC cut more than it added, reducing the length of the rule by over 12%. The amendments relate primarily to credit and diversification requirements, but also incorporate some of the staff’s FAQs on the 2014 reforms.
Continue Reading It’s a Miracle: Rule 2a-7 Gets Shorter

On August 4, the staff of the Division of Investment Management updated their 2014 Money Market Fund Reform Frequently Asked Questions (the “FAQs”). I’ll discuss these revisions in a series of posts, starting with an important question relating to beneficial ownership by natural persons.
Continue Reading Revised Money Market Reform FAQs—Good News for Retail Funds

Many have found Question 28 of the SEC staff’s 2014 Money Market Fund Reform Frequently Asked Questions frustrating. The question is whether a money market fund’s board of directors can determine to impose a liquidity fee or temporarily suspend redemptions (“gate” the fund) but delay the implementation. The delay would allow the fund to notify its shareholders and their intermediaries. Delay would also provide time to “close the gate” or start charging the fee.
Continue Reading Using Money Fund Gates in a (and as a) Clutch

Currently, managers and directors of money market funds are wrestling with the question of how to make certain that every intermediary selling their funds can implement a liquidity fee. Intermediaries, in turn, are worried about implementing different fees for different funds that may change continuously.

This series of posts asks a different question: How would intermediaries adapt to receiving redemptions proceeds net of any liquidity fee?
Continue Reading Why Intermediaries Can Stop Worrying About Money Fund Liquidity Fees—Part Three