EU Set to Regulate Hedge Funds

I’ve written before about being in favour of a common EU-wide approach to financial regulation and crisis management. So, on the face of it, one might imagine that I’d be happy about the news that EU finance ministers are about to approve a proposal for EU-level regulation for Alternative Investment Fund Managers (AIFMs) including hedge funds and private equity firms. However, looking at the proposals, I’m not too positive about them.

I’m all in favour of registering these firms and collecting statistical information on the exposure that banks have to them. But EU the proposals seem to go well beyond this, including bans on selling to retail investors, limits on selling non-EU-domiciled funds inside the EU, the enforcement of capital requirements etc. I’m not sure that these proposals will ultimately do much other than encourage funds to set up outside the EU, for instance in Switzerland.

The documents associated with the proposal admit at various points that hedge funds did not cause the financial crisis. But other material says stuff like “the crisis has underlined the extent to which AIFM are vulnerable to a wide range of risks.” There seems to be an element here of trying to have it both ways. There is most likely also an element of being seen to do something by picking on an area that, as the BBC news story puts it “many say played a part in the global financial collapse” – even if what many say isn’t particularly accurate.