The Fortis and Aston/Fortis Money Market Funds, formerly known as the ABN Amro Money Funds, liquidated at the end of July, becoming the latest casualty of fund consolidation. An SEC filing said, "Effective June 22, 2009, the Aston/Fortis Money Market Fund, Fortis Government Money Market Fund, Fortis Tax-Exempt Money Market Fund and Fortis Treasury Money Market Fund are no longer available as an exchange option. The Board of Trustees of Aston Funds approved a plan to liquidate and terminate each Money Market Fund on or about July 30, 2009."

Aston/Fortis, which last month had shrunk to a mere $179 million in assets, ranked #83 out of 85 money fund complexes tracked by Crane Data's Money Fund Intelligence XLS as of June 30. These funds had held over $2 billion in assets at the start of 2008, and the funds had been paying zero yields and running AMs, or WAMS (weighted average maturities), of just 1 day for a number of months (often a sign of a pending liquidation). Note also that Fortis, which is owned by BNP Paribas, continues to run money market funds outside the U.S..

The Aston fund's filing continues, "The last date to place orders to exchange shares of each Money Market Fund for shares of other Aston Funds is July 28, 2009. Effective July 15, 2009, the Aston Money Market Fund -- Bedford Shares of the Money Market Portfolio of The RBB Fund, Inc. offered in connection with the Aston Funds will be available as an exchange option for shareholders of the Aston Funds. Existing shareholders of the Money Market Funds or the intermediaries through which shares are held must take affirmative action to exchange their shares from the Money Market Funds into the Aston Money Market Fund."

Aston/Fortis represents the fifth complex to exit or announce an exit from the money fund management space in the past two years. The others are: Calamos, Credit Suisse, Monarch, Munder, and UCM, or Utendahl. There also, of course, is Reserve Funds' likely exit. (Janus and Putnam are sometimes mentioned too, but they only exited the institutional side of the business.) In addition, there have been at least 4 "outsourcing" deals -- Capital One (moved assets into Fidelity), Fifth Third (moved muni assets into Federated), Nationwide (Federated), and most recently, Neuberger Berman (the former Lehman is moving taxable assets to SSgA).

Crane Data discuss more consolidation, and why we think the trend is overrated, in our most recent quarterly Money Fund Intelligence Distribution Survey. As we said in MFIDS, "Almost all of these moves have been made by marginal players. While there undoubtedly will be more deals, the status quo remains a force to be reckoned with."

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