Money market funds are a type of mutual fund developed in the 1970s as an option for investors to purchase a pool of securities that generally provided higher returns than interest-bearing bank accounts. They have since grown significantly and currently hold more than $2.9 trillion in assets, the majority of which is in institutional funds. There are many kinds of money market funds, including ones that invest primarily in government securities, tax-exempt municipal securities, or corporate debt securities. Money market funds that primarily invest in corporate debt securities are referred to as prime funds.
In response to the 2007-2008 financial crisis, the Commission adopted a series of amendments to its rules on money market funds in 2010 that were designed to make money market funds more resilient by reducing the interest rate, credit, and liquidity risks of their portfolios. Although these reforms improved money market fund resiliency, the Commission said at the time that it would continue to consider whether further, more fundamental changes to money market fund regulation might be warranted. Accordingly, on June 5, 2013, the Commission voted unanimously to propose additional measures that would reform the way that money market funds operate to make them less susceptible to runs that could harm investors.
The SEC’s proposal includes two principal alternative reforms that could be adopted alone or in combination. One alternative would require a floating net asset value (NAV) for prime institutional money market funds. The other alternative would allow the use of liquidity fees and redemption gates in times of stress. The proposal also includes additional diversification and disclosure measures that would apply under either alternative.