Apparently more than a thousand amendments have been tabled for the Alternative Investment Fund Management directive, Brussels’ attempt to bring private equity and hedge funds under its loving control.
This unprecedented level of rewriting during the legislative process is a testament to the inexorable sway of the alternative asset management industry. The original, draconian, draft of the AIFM was seen as a shy at the ever popular Aunt Sally of hedge funds, or ‘locusts’ as they are known in Germany. The usually painstaking and thoughtful asset management unit of the European Commission’s internal markets division had apparently come under political pressure to bring out a hardhitting draft directive in a hurry.
At leisure, however, even the European Parliament found regulating a European hedge fund industry too harshly might not be that good an idea. Its own impact study found implementation of the proposed directive as it stood could result in a 0.2 per cent contraction in the combined GDP of the European Union.
Possibly, however, the initial announcement and pained squawks for the industry were enough to satisfy the hedge fund haters, and now the tedious work of actually piecing together something actually workable can be done out of the glare of the media spotlight.
Certainly the number of journalists prepared to dig through all 1000+ amendments is likely to be as slim as the number of readers prepared to read about them.
The blog posts on websites read by UK independent financial advisers are alive with objections to comments by Andrew Fisher, outspoken chief executive of Towry Law.
Mr Fisher runs a fee-based advice outfit, but revealed recently that his firm gets £6m a year in trail commission on legacy business it inherited from firms it has taken over. Towry Law does not provide a service in return for this money – an example of how it is possible to earn money for nothing in the strange world of financial advice.
The challenge of setting up independent pension trustee boards is an uphill task.
Any hopes of making progress were dashed today, reading the latest findings from Trustee GAAPS. Only one third of pension trustee boards of FTSE 100 companies are independent, according to the trustee search firm.
It seems the European Commission has vanishingly few supporters of its proposed directive on alternative investment fund managers.
Reporting back from a Eurofi conference in Sweden, at an Efama one in Brussels, Eddy Wymeersch, chairman of Cesr, says eight of ten people on the panel discussing the issue in Sweden thought the draft needed major revision. There is particular concern about its scope. It appears sovereign wealth funds could fall within the remit of the AIFM – which would be nonsensical, according to Mr Wymeersch.
There should be different regimes for different types of funds, he says.
Will the Commission accept it has got this one wrong? Or is it determined not to back down?
When it was just the alternative investment industry complaining and threatening to leave for friendlier shores, the Commission perhaps took the view this was vested interests talking and who cared if the hedgies left for Switzerland?
With a growing chorus of dissent from investors and regulators, does the case for re-examining the proposed legislation get stronger?
Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, self-styled bogeyman of alternative investment managers
It seems the discussions on the European Commission’s much reviled draft directive on alternative investment fund managers are taking place after the event rather than before, as is usually the case with EU legislation.
The Financial Services Authority, the UK regulator, is focusing on this one topic in its asset management conference tomorrow. This follows last week’s debate, held in London’s Guildhall, between Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, self-styled “bogeyman” of alternative investment managers, and Lord Myners, the UK’s City Minister.
Gillian Tett of this parish is wondering why more bankers are not in jail. She thinks it’s partly because all this finance stuff is too complicated for the poor little lawyers to understand. But there may be other reasons, like judges who think they should take the working environment of wrongdoers into account. Like the fantasy judge imagined by the Jets in Westside Story, who lets off a hoodlum because he pleads a tough childhood, this New Jersey judge seems to think working in a “pernicious and pervasive … culture of corruption” is a mitigation of accuseds’ offence.
There is a chart in a new report from the World Economic Forum that should give anyone designing a pension plan pause for thought. It shows what a lottery defined contribution pensions can be, with Japan a particularly good example.
Based on certain assumptions, the chart (on page 48 of the report) shows a hypthetical Japanese worker retiring just before 1990 would have enjoyed retirement income equivalent to 60 per cent of earnings after contributing 5 per cent a year for 40 years investing in a 60/40 combination of domestic equities and bonds. But the unlucky one retiring 10 years later would have had to survive on 10 per cent.
After last year’s fun and games in the world of money market funds, when it turned out they were not as stable and secure as everyone thought, there is a rush to come up with new classifications, in an attempt to make them less risky and also to make sure everyone agrees on what a money market fund is.