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Lawmakers Advance Proposals on Closed-End Funds; 36(b) Litigation; Money Market Funds

The House Financial Services Committee approved 15 bills on a wide range of topics, including regulatory relief for financial institutions and increased investment opportunities. Some of these bills are expected to move to the House floor soon, continuing a recent pattern in the House of passing targeted pieces of financial services legislation. The Senate Banking Committee advanced a bipartisan regulatory relief package in December that is expected to see Senate floor action in the coming months. At some point the House and Senate are expected to reconcile their policy differences and send a package to the President for his signature.  Among the bills passed was a measure directing the SEC to relax the registration and filing requirements and restrictions on communications for closed-end funds. Also approved wasthe Mutual Fund Litigation Reform Act, which proposes to amend section 36(b) of the 1940 Act to require shareholder plaintiffs to state with particularity all the facts establishing a breach of fiduciary duty and to prove the breach of fiduciary duty by clear and convincing evidence – a higher standard to meet for potential plaintiffs in 36(b) cases. The Committee also advanced legislation to roll back some of the SEC’s 2014 money market reforms and allow money market funds to return to a $1 stable net asset value without regard to whether an investor is a retail or institutional investor, among other things. The ICI opposes the legislation and has contended that rolling back money market reforms could revive Obama-era regulatory scrutiny, according to media reports. Trade group Better Markets wrote a letter to SEC Chairman Jay Clayton supporting the 2014 money market reforms and opposing the legislation. However, other groups and at least one fund manager have stood behind the legislation. The Coalition for Investor Choice has assailed the consequences of money market reform, citing the significant shift of assets from prime and tax-exempt funds to Treasurys and government funds, higher interest rates and borrowing costs, and fewer funding sources for municipalities, hospitals and universities, according to the group’s website. Major asset managers, including BlackRock, Fidelity and Vanguard, continue to support the 2014 money market reforms, according to a Politico report.