DUBLIN (Reuters) - Europe should follow the United States’ lead in reforming money market funds to try to resolve a legislative impasse over how to make the trillion euro sector safer, a senior official at the Irish central bank said on Thursday.
Europe wants to impose curbs on money market funds, which are widely used by companies to park their cash, to avoid the sort of panicked withdrawals seen when U.S. bank Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008 forcing taxpayers to backstop the sector.
Dublin is one of the major centres for fixed-price money market funds in Europe and wants to ensure that new European Union rules, whenever they are agreed upon, do not trigger an exodus of funds from Europe.
One of the big hurdles to European proposals, which require certain money market funds either to move to a floating price or build up capital buffers, is that corporate treasurers like funds to have a fixed price because it means they don’t have to track daily price movements for tax purposes and it is simpler to book in their accounts.
Gareth Murphy, director of markets supervision at the central bank of Ireland, said the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) simplified the tax and accounting elements of its reforms, which were agreed last year.
“The U.S. SEC prioritised, ruthlessly, the fixing of those issues before they finalised their revised rule last year,” Murphy said in an interview with Reuters.
“If those operational issues could be dealt with I think that may go a long way towards addressing some of the concerns of corporate treasurers and money managers in relation to money market fund reforms.”
European lawmakers are split on how to make the sector, a key source of funding for banks, governments and companies, safer with left-wing parliamentarians keen to impose a capital buffer on it and parties on the right fearful that such a measure would kill the sector off.
Such divisions raise doubts that consensus can be reached before the European Parliament’s economic affairs committee votes on a draft law for a second time this month, with a full parliamentary vote scheduled for March.
The United States adopted moderate reforms of its money market funds after a previous proposal, similar to the current European plan requiring money funds to float or post bank-like capital, faltered due to industry lobbying and internal bickering within the SEC.
Murphy said differences between the U.S. and European regimes could prompt funds currently based in Europe to move offshore.
“If we end up with this patchwork of different regimes for fundamentally the same activity, the goals of international regulatory coordination and global financial stability will have suffered a setback.”
Reporting by Carmel Crimmins, editing by David Evans