A Bloomberg editorial published in the Washington Post, entitled, "Money Market Funds Need This Fix From the SEC," opines, "Yet again, the Securities and Exchange Commission is aiming to address one of the weakest links in the U.S. financial system: money market mutual funds, the object of at least two reform efforts and two major federal rescues in as many decades. This time around, regulators might actually be getting it right. Money market funds emerged in the 1970s as a relatively unregulated alternative to banks, which at the time faced limits on the interest they could pay depositors.... The 2008 financial crisis exposed the charade, when the Reserve Primary Fund -- among the largest in the industry -- 'broke the buck,' dropping the dollar-a-share fiction amid losses on defaulted bonds.... This episode inspired two rounds of reforms. In 2010, the SEC increased the amount of easy-to-sell 'liquid' assets that money market funds must keep on hand to satisfy redemptions. In 2016, it required institutional prime funds (as well as those that invest in tax-exempt municipal bonds) to value their shares in line with their underlying securities, rather than at $1. In case this didn't eliminate the incentive to run, the SEC also allowed funds to charge penalties or even pause withdrawals if their liquid assets fell below a certain level." Bloomberg continues, "In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic put the new approach to the test, with disastrous results. As it turned out, floating share prices alone weren't enough to prevent runs. Investors still had an incentive to get out while funds had liquid assets to sell, leaving others to suffer the losses that would come when they tried to unload more thinly traded securities such as commercial paper and corporate bonds. The threat of penalties and pauses exacerbated the problem: Investors pulled more money from funds that were closer to their minimum liquidity thresholds. As a result, prime funds lost some 30% of their assets in just two weeks, before the government again stepped in." They add, "Now, regulators have proposed yet another reform: swing pricing, a mechanism already used widely in Europe. Instead of allowing first movers to get out with little or no price impact, it would require funds to adjust their share prices to reflect transaction costs and -- during periods of particularly heavy withdrawals -- the effect of selling less-liquid assets.... This would make investors think twice about pulling out and, if they nonetheless did, make them bear the losses that they would otherwise impose on remaining shareholders. U.S. money market funds don't love the idea. It will require them to change how they do business and to come up with difficult estimates, such as what the hypothetical price effect of selling a cross-section of their assets would be. That said, the funds are already adept at making such calculations, and the European experience suggests that swing pricing is feasible, effective and even performance-enhancing. If the prospect of getting back less than $1 per share causes some investors to switch to bank deposits, that's merely the salutary effect of recognizing true risks."

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