Report: March turbulence shows need for financial reforms

Martin Crutsinger
AP Economics Writer

Washington – A top government financial oversight panel says that the turbulence in financial markets last spring has exposed problems in the operation of money market funds that will need to be corrected before the next crisis hits.

The President’s Working Group on Financial Markets, led by the Treasury Department, issued a report Tuesday which said that the flight to safety triggered by the coronavirus pandemic last spring pointed to the need for reforms that will make money market funds less vulnerable to investors rushing to withdraw their funds.

“During March, money markets experienced significant outflows, forcing Treasury and the Federal Reserve to step in to prevent a destabilizing run,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Justin Muzinich said in a statement accompanying the report.

A street sign is displayed at the New York Stock Exchange in New York, Monday, Nov. 23, 2020.

“We must now consider reforms to ensure this vulnerability does not threaten financial stability,” he said.

The crisis last March prompted the Federal Reserve to purchase billions of dollars in Treasury securities and other bonds to stabilize financial markets and cope with a massive sell-off by investors that was larger than the sell-off that was triggered by the 2008 financial crisis.

While the 2008 bout of instability led to a number of reforms, the new report said that this year’s problems highlighted the need for further action.

The report did not make specific recommendations for changes but instead laid out a number of areas which could be considered such as imposing higher capital requirements for money market funds or tougher rules for investors to redeem their investments.

The President’s Working Group on Financial Markets is led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and includes Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and the heads of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Former Fed Chair Janet Yellen, who has been tapped by President-elect Joe Biden to be the next Treasury secretary, is expected to make shoring up the financial system against bouts of investor flight one of her priorities once she takes office after being confirmed by the Senate.