Federated Investors released its latest "10-K annual report late last week, which discusses a number of theoretical risks to their business. Given Federated's huge role in the money market fund space, the document provides a glimpse into a number of issues impacting money market funds in general. We except from their 10-K below. (See also our Jan. 29 News, "`Federated's Donahue, Cunningham Optimistic on MMF Growth in 2018," which quotes from Federated's most recent quarterly earnings call.) Federated writes in their filing, "Deregulation also is a focus of certain legislative efforts. The House Financial Services Committee recently advanced a bill seeking to reverse certain aspects of money market fund reform. For example, the proposed law would permit the use of amortized cost valuation by, and override the floating NAV and certain other requirements for, institutional and municipal (or tax-exempt) money market funds, which requirements were imposed under the SEC's structural, operational and other money market fund reforms adopted through amendments to Rule 2a-7, and certain other regulations, on July 23, 2014 (2014 Money Fund Rules) and related guidance (collectively, the 2014 Money Fund Rules and Guidance)."

They explain, "The current regulatory environment has impacted, and will continue to impact, Federated's business, results of operations, financial condition and/or cash flows. For example, changes required under the 2014 Money Fund Rules and Guidance resulted in a shift in asset mix from institutional prime and municipal (or tax-exempt) money market funds to stable NAV government money market funds across the investment management industry and at Federated, which impacted its AUM, revenues and operating income. While management believes that, as interest rates rise, money market funds will benefit generally from increased yields, particularly as compared to deposit account alternatives, and that, as spreads widen, investors who exited prime money market funds will likely continue to reconsider their investment options over time, including Federated's prime private money market fund and prime collective fund, the degree of improvement to Federated's prime money market business can vary and is uncertain."

The 10-K says, "Management believes that the floating NAV, and fees and gates, required by the 2014 Money Fund Rules, as well as the Final Fiduciary Rule and other Regulatory Developments, has been and will continue to be detrimental to Federated's fund business. In addition to the impact on Federated's AUM, revenues, operating income and other aspects of Federated's business described above, on a cumulative basis, Federated's regulatory, product development and restructuring, and other efforts in response to the Regulatory Developments discussed above, including the internal and external resources dedicated to such efforts, have had, and may continue to have, a material impact on Federated's expenses and, in turn, financial performance."

It continues, "As of December 31, 2017, given the current regulatory environment, the possibility of future additional or modified regulation or oversight, and the potential for deregulation in the U.S., Federated is unable to fully assess the impact of adopted or proposed regulations, and other Regulatory Developments, and Federated's efforts related thereto, on its business, results of operations, financial condition and/or cash flows. The regulatory changes and developments in the current regulatory environment, and Federated's efforts in responding to them, could have a material and adverse effect on Federated's business, results of operations, financial condition and/or cash flows."

The filing also states, "On April 5, 2017, European Parliament passed EU money market fund reforms (Money Market Fund Regulation or MMFR), which went into force on July 21, 2017. The MMFR provides for the following types of money market funds in the EU: (1) Government constant NAV (CNAV) funds; (2) Low volatility NAV (LVNAV) funds; (3) Short-term variable NAV (VNAV) funds; and (4) standard VNAV funds. The reforms will be effective (i.e., must be complied with) in regards to new funds on July 21, 2018 and will be effective in regards to existing funds on January 21, 2019. Federated continues to engage with trade associations and appropriate regulators in connection with the MMFR as the European Securities Market Authority (ESMA) and the European Commission begin work on the next stage of implementing the MMFR."

The document tells us, "While the MMFR will need to be complied with in 2018 or early 2019, government CNAV and LVNAV fund reforms will be subject to a future review by the European Commission in 2022. This review will consider the adequacy of the reforms from a prudential and economic perspective, taking into account, among other factors, the impact of the reforms on investors, money market funds, money fund managers and short-term financing markets, the role that money market funds play in purchasing debt issued or guaranteed by EU Member States, and international regulatory developments…. [I]t is uncertain whether Brexit could delay implementation of the EU money market fund reforms. For Federated money market fund products subject to the MMFR, Federated has begun to take steps to structure such products consistent with the MMFR."

The Pittsburgh-based company writes on the "Potential Adverse Effects of Low Short-Term Interest Rates," "After initiating short-term interest rate increases of 0.25% in late 2015 and 2016, the Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve Board (FOMC) raised the federal funds target rate by 0.25% three times during 2017 to its current target range of 1.25%-1.50%. The federal funds target rate, which drives short-term interest rates, had been close to zero for nearly seven years prior to the December 2015 increase. The long-term low interest-rate environment resulted in the gross yield earned by certain money market funds not being sufficient to cover all of the fund's operating expenses. As a result, beginning in the fourth quarter of 2008, Federated implemented voluntary waivers (either through fee waivers or reimbursements or assumptions of expenses) in order for certain money market funds to maintain positive or zero net yields (Voluntary Yield-related Fee Waivers). These waivers were partially offset by related reductions in distribution expense and net income attributable to noncontrolling interests as a result of Federated's mutual understanding and agreement with third-party intermediaries to share the impact of the Voluntary Yield-related Fee Waivers."

They also comment, "On a cumulative basis, Federated's regulatory, product development and restructuring, and other efforts in response to the Regulatory Developments discussed above, including the internal and external resources dedicated to such efforts, have had, and may continue to have, a material impact on Federated's expenses and, in turn, financial performance. The floating NAV for institutional and municipal (or tax-exempt) money market funds, and redemption fees and liquidity gates, required by the 2014 Money Fund Rules and Guidance, effective October 14, 2016, resulted in a shift in asset mix from institutional prime and municipal (or tax-exempt) money market funds to stable NAV government money market funds across the investment management industry and at Federated, which impacted its AUM, revenues and operating income. The regulatory changes and developments in the current regulatory environment, and Federated's efforts in responding to them, could have a material and adverse effect on Federated's business, results of operations, financial condition and/or cash flows. Given the current regulatory environment and the potential for deregulation or future additional or modified regulation or guidance, Federated is unable to fully assess the degree of the impact of adopted or proposed regulations, and other regulatory developments, and Federated's efforts related thereto, on its business, results of operations, financial condition and/or cash flows."

The 10-K also says, "Outside of the U.S., international regulators and other authorities, such as the FCA and Central Bank of Ireland, also have adopted and proposed regulations that could increase Federated's operating expenses and adversely affect Federated's business, results of operation, financial condition and/or cash flows.... Management continues to monitor and evaluate the potential impact of European money market reforms and other regulatory developments on Federated's business, results of operations, financial condition and/or cash flows. Regulatory reforms stemming from Brexit, as well as the potential political and economic uncertainty surrounding Brexit or other initiatives also may adversely affect, potentially in a material way, Federated's business, results of operations, financial condition and/or cash flows (including to Federated's non-U.S. operations)…. Among other potential impacts, compliance risks, the cost of compliance and other operational expenses have increased, and may continue to increase, it may become more difficult to passport products between the UK and EU Member States, and certain money market fund products may become less attractive to institutional or other investors, which could result in changes in asset mix and reductions in AUM, revenues and operating income."

It continues, "The designation as a non-bank, non-insurance company global systemically important financial institution by the FSB also could have a material adverse effect on Federated's business, results of operations, financial condition and/or cash flows <b:>`_…. Among other potential impacts, any such designation would subject the designated entity to enhanced banking-oriented measures, including, for example, capital and liquidity requirements, leverage limits, enhanced public disclosures and risk management requirements, thereby increasing compliance risk and compliance costs. Federated is unable to assess the degree of any potential impact that Brexit, European money market reforms, an FTT or other regulatory reforms or initiatives may have on its business, results of operations, financial condition and/or cash flows until negotiations for the UK's exit are completed, such regulatory developments receive final approval and become effective or an FTT is enacted. `Federated also is unable to assess whether, or the degree to which Federated, any of its investment management subsidiaries or any of the Federated Funds, including money market funds, or any of its other products, could ultimately be determined to be a non-bank, non-insurance company global systemically important financial institution at this time."

Regarding "Risk of Federated's Money Market Products' Ability to Maintain a Stable Net Asset Value," Federated writes, "Approximately 41% of Federated's total revenue for 2017 was attributable to money market assets. An investment in money market funds is neither insured nor guaranteed by the FDIC or any other government agency. Federated's retail and government money market funds, as well as its private and collective money market funds, seek to maintain a stable NAV. Although stable NAV money market funds seek to maintain an NAV of $1.00 per share, it is possible for an investor to lose money by investing in these funds. Federated also offers institutional prime or municipal (or tax-exempt) money market funds which transact at a fluctuating NAV that uses four-decimal-place precision ($1.0000). It is possible for an investor to lose money by investing in these funds."

They continue, "Federated devotes substantial resources, such as significant credit analysis and attention to security valuation in connection with the management of its products and strategies. However, the NAV of an institutional prime or municipal (or tax-exempt) money market fund can fluctuate, and there is no guarantee that a government or retail (i.e. stable NAV) money market fund will be able to preserve a stable NAV in the future. Market conditions could lead to a limited supply of money market securities and severe liquidity issues and/or declines in interest rates or additional prolonged periods of low yields in money market products or strategies, and regulatory changes or developments could lead to shifts in asset levels and mix, which could impact money market fund NAVs and performance. If the NAV of a Federated stable NAV money market fund were to decline to less than $1.00 per share, such Federated money market fund would likely experience significant redemptions, resulting in reductions in AUM, loss of shareholder confidence and reputational harm, all of which could cause material adverse effects on Federated's business, results of operations, financial condition and/or cash flows. It is also possible that, if an institutional prime or municipal (or tax-exempt) money market fund's fluctuating NAV consistently or significantly declines to less than $1.0000 per share, such Federated money market fund could experience significant redemptions, resulting in reductions in AUM, loss of shareholder confidence and reputational harm, all of which could cause material adverse effects on Federated's business, results of operations, financial condition and/or cash flows."

Finally, the document comments briefly on Federated's relationship with brokerage Edwards Jones, saying, "In addition to the VIEs in the table above, at December 31, 2016, Federated had a majority interest (50.5%) and acted as the general partner in Passport Research Ltd. (Passport), a limited partnership. Edward D. Jones & Co., L.P. was the limited partner with a 49.5% interest. The partnership was an investment advisor to one sponsored fund as of December 31, 2016 and was deemed to be a VIE in accordance with the consolidation guidance. Federated transferred its partnership interest on January 27, 2017 and is no longer the primary beneficiary of Passport."

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