EU Markets Chief Pushes Tough Hedge Fund Rules In London

Mar 4 2010 | 6:43am ET

European Union internal markets commissioner Michel Barnier went to London this week to reassure the continent’s most important financial center. But the U.K.’s alternative investments industry left the meetings anything but reassured.

Barnier showed an unwillingness to compromise on the EU’s proposed hedge fund and private equity regulations, which would impose strict new reporting and custody requirements on alternative investment firms.

Barnier—a close ally of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, a major hedge fund critic—was also inflexible on the most contentious issue in the hedge fund rules, The Independent reports. The commissioner reaffirmed his support of measures that could keep foreign hedge funds from selling their wares in Europe.

“Requiring high standards of supervision and transparency from the European industry but not from third-country funds and managers active in Europe would be short-sighted,” Barnier said. “It would impede effective monitoring of risk in Europe and create an unlevel playing field and opportunities for regulatory arbitrage.”

British critics have called such an attitude “protectionist.”

The EU rules are currently being debated by the European Parliament. While that body has expressed confidence that a compromise can be reached, there remain serious disagreements among EU governments, which must also approve the rules before they come into effect.

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