The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s authority to regulate mutual funds is being undercut by a panel of regulators assigned to examine threats to the broader economy, Commissioner Luis A. Aguilar said today.
The Financial Stability Oversight Council, which is led by Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew, has cut commission members out of discussions over the risk posed by large asset management firms such as BlackRock Inc. (BLK), Aguilar said in a speech at a Mutual Fund Directors Forum conference in Washington.
The SEC and Treasury’s Office of Financial Research, which provides support to the FSOC, have differed over efforts to study the $53 trillion asset-management industry. The research office, known as OFR, wrote in a September report that money managers could pose threats to the U.S. financial system when reaching for higher returns, herding into popular asset classes or amplifying price movements with leverage.
The study had “significant factual and analytical defects” and shouldn’t be used as the basis for policy decisions, Aguilar said in his speech.
“The work of FSOC and OFR to identify and mitigate systemic risk is important,” Aguilar said. “However, there is real danger in that work being compromised if the full five-member commission is cut out of the process.”
The FSOC’s voting membership is prescribed by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act and includes SEC Chair Mary Jo White, along with Lew and the leaders of seven other financial regulators. Principals such as White are permitted to bring one other person from their agency to an FSOC meeting, said Suzanne Elio, a Treasury spokeswoman.
“We defer to the agencies and principals as to who attends,” Elio said.
Richard Berner, the director of Treasury’s research office, told the House Financial Services Committee in February that the report was fair. The study wasn’t intended to evaluate specific firms and doesn’t by itself mean asset managers will face stricter oversight, Berner told the lawmakers.
White told the Senate Banking Committee in February that the SEC “provided technical assistance” and feedback on the asset-manager report. The SEC and the OFR agreed “to disagree on a number of things,” she said.
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