February 26, 2015 / 11:57 AM / 5 years ago

EU lawmakers back revamp of money market funds

LONDON (Reuters) - Europe’s money market funds will not have to hold costly capital to shield them from financial shocks following a vote by European Union lawmakers to soften proposed new rules for the trillion-euro industry.

The new regulations are designed to ensure stability in money market funds, which are used by companies and investors to park cash for short periods. The funds experienced mass withdrawals when U.S. bank Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008, which contributed to the chaos across financial markets.

The original proposals would have required more than half the funds in the sector to hold a buffer or capital equivalent to 3 percent of their assets as a safeguard in market turbulence.

The industry complained that such a buffer would make these funds, known as constant net asset value funds (CNAVS) uneconomic, which would give corporate treasurers fewer options in terms of where to park cash.

Now the European Parliament’s economic affairs committee has voted to ditch the capital buffer requirement.

It has adopted a new approach similar to rules introduced in the United States, where the funds would have fees and “gates” aimed at making it harder for investors to withdraw their cash in a crisis.

The new plans also create three new categories of CNAVs, one for holding only European Union government debt and another for just retail investors.

A third category, a so-called “low volatility” version, would effectively be a vehicle for phasing out remaining CNAV funds over five years. These would be replaced with variable net asset value funds, where the value of the fund moves with the market. About half of Europe’s money market funds already have this feature.

The European Association of Corporate Treasurers (EACT) said it appreciated the lawmakers’ decision to allow for new types of CNAV funds without a capital buffer.

But EACT said its members were worried that the phasing out of low volatility funds could deter fund managers from setting up new funds, thereby limiting the availability of funds on the market.

The European Parliament and EU states have joint say on the draft law and member states have to reached a deal among themselves before both sides sit down to agree a final text that will become law.

Under the version backed by lawmakers on Thursday, all money market funds, including variable net asset value funds, must meet minimum liquidity requirements and limit how much can be invested in any given asset.

No money market fund would be allowed to receive external support at any time, including from their sponsors, making it clear what would happen in a crisis.

Editing by Jane Merriman

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