Euro. Lawmakers Hopeful On Hedge Fund Rules

Feb 24 2010 | 2:25am ET

European lawmakers appear to be nearing a compromise on controversial new hedge fund and private equity rules, but the British are warning that they will further delay the legislation if it fails to meet the country’s needs.

The European Commissions’ proposed Alternative Investment Managers Directive has elicited much criticism since its unveiling last year, both from the industry and the U.K., who call the rules too strict, and from the likes of Germany and France, which say they aren't strict enough. But after a European Parliament committee meeting yesterday, parties on all sides seem optimistic that a deal can be reached.

“Things are looking much brighter than a few months ago,” Wolf Klinz, a German member of parliament for the centrist Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

At yesterday’s meeting, parties on all sides expressed confidence that their differences could be dealt with. Jean-Paul Gauzes, the French member who is directing the legislation through the parliament, called himself “quite optimistic.”

He, for one, expressed willingness to compromise on one of the most contentious aspects of the legislation: the fate of foreign hedge fund managers.

Gauzes said he now favors a transitional period. During that time—with the EU would use to rate foreign regulatory regimes and decide which were equivalent to those of the 27-member bloc—existing rules in each European country would remain in effect.

It is precisely on that issue that the U.K. is threatening to step in. While the continent’s finance ministers hope to reach accord on March 16, the British government has said it will block the legislation if its concerns are not addressed.

“We will reserve the right, if needed, that we push for postponement,” Sarah McCarthy Fry told a British parliamentary committee.

“We are not prepared to accept unjust barriers or costs to third-country managers,” she said.

But the rhetoric is ratcheting down in Brussels. Gauzes credited the alternative investments industry with dropping its stonewalling tactics, and said that the two sides are now discussing the technical aspects of the legislation. And even though leftists in the parliament are promising “intransigence” on the issue of naked short-selling in light of the debt crisis in Greece, the issue was raised only by the Green Party at the committee meeting.


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