Closing the Hedge Fund Loophole: The SEC as the Primary Regulator of Systemic Risk
65 Pages Posted: 14 Nov 2016 Last revised: 6 Apr 2017
Date Written: November 14, 2016
The 2008 financial crisis sparked a flurry of regulatory activity and enforcement in an attempt to reign in activity by banks, but other institutions have also been identified as potentially threatening to the stability of the financial markets. In particular, several empirical studies have revealed that systemic risk can be created and transmitted by hedge funds. In response to the risk created by hedge funds, Congress granted the Financial Stability Oversight Council (“FSOC”) authority under the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 to designate hedge funds as Systemically Important Financial Institutions (“SIFIs”). Such a designation would automatically result in stringent capital constraints and limitations on liquidity risk on these non-bank institutions. Yet in over six years since FSOC has been granted this authority, it has failed to identify even one hedge fund as a SIFI. In the face of massive resistance and deregulatory initiatives introduced under the Trump administration, it is highly unlikely to do so in the near future. The inability of FSOC to regulate systemically harmful funds is particularly troubling because several post-financial crisis studies have revealed that systemic risk can still be created and transmitted by hedge funds. Given FSOC’s inability to close this hedge fund loophole, this Article argues that Congress should explore appointing the SEC as the primary regulator of hedge funds because: (1) hedge funds can still pose a systemic threat to the economy; (2) the transparency framework inherent in the federal securities laws can supply a more effective means for mitigating systemic risk than the prudential framework currently mandated for SIFIs; and (3) appointing the SEC in this regard would reduce the fragmentation of the current regulatory structure which has been extended and complicated by the creation of FSOC. Although the federal securities laws are typically used to promote investor protection, this Article posits that enhancing transparency to hedge fund counterparties and investors can decrease systemic risk by empowering such market participants to better protect themselves against risk. Enhancing protection in this manner could in-turn weed out systemically harmful funds from the marketplace, without imposing the severe capital constraints that would be mandated under FSOC’s model.
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