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Commentary

Money Market Funds on Life Support

As the battle over the fate of money market funds enters its fourth year, the fundamental conflict between banking and securities regulation is reaching a boiling point.

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Three years ago, I asked: Will Obama Kill Money Market Funds? He certainly is trying, but the MMF industry is not going down without a fight. It scored a victory in round one when SEC chairman Mary Schapiro gave up trying to persuade her fellow commissioners to support reforms that the industry argues would, in effect, eliminate MMFs as we know them. This battle has now moved to round two with Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner's request to the Financial Stability Oversight Council to pick up where the SEC has left off.

Geithner's request is probably more bark than bite. It would be imprudent for a novice regulator such as FSOC to test its new powers in a fight with industry and Congress (see Sen. Pat Toomey's comments) that it may lose. And if chairman Schapiro leaves the commission, which some have predicted, her replacement may take up MMF reform again, in which case FSOC action would not be needed.

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Mercer Bullard does not own shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.