EU Markets Chief Tells Geithner Hedge Fund Rules Won’t Discriminate

Apr 9 2010 | 1:28am ET

The European Union’s proposed hedge fund rules will not exclude U.S. hedge funds from the continent, a top official said.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s internal markets commissioner, sought to reassure U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in a letter last month. Barnier’s missive followed Geithner’s own letter to Barnier, warning him against imposing measures that discriminate against U.S. hedge funds and private equity firms.

“I am convinced that access to the European single market should be granted to managers and funds domiciled in third countries, including the U.S., provided that high level standards of transparency and security are agreed,” Barnier wrote on March 29. He also took aim at Geithner’s contention that the EU rules would conflict with the guidelines agreed by the Group of 20.

Not so, says Barnier. The EU rules “respond directly to the commitments of the G20 leaders.”

Geithner appears to have been unconvinced by Barnier’s assurances. A week after Barnier wrote his letter, Geithner wrote another, urging four European finance ministers to reject any legislation that would “discriminate against foreign firms.”

Despite his earlier warnings that he would not be “bullied” by Washington, Barnier took a conciliatory tone in his letter to Geithner.

“Discrimination has no place in the emerging regulatory framework,” he wrote. “By providing a level playing field for domestic and foreign players alike, we eliminate opportunities for regulatory arbitrage and create the conditions for fair competition.”

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