European Parliament Backs Hedge Fund Rules, With Big Caveat

May 18 2010 | 2:09pm ET

A key European Parliament committee has approved the European Union’s controversial hedge fund regulations, but have set up a battle with the bloc’s finance ministers at the same time.

The Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee gave its assent to the Alternative Investment Managers Directive, which would impose strict new reporting and custody rules on hedge funds and private equity funds, as well as possible leverage and borrowing limits. But the bill headed to the full Parliament includes the so-called “passport” that would give foreign hedge funds that meet certain requirements access to all 27 EU countries. That provision was not included in the version of the directive approved today by the EU’s finance ministers.

The negotiations with the finance ministers and the European Parliament “will be difficult,” Jean-Paul Gauzes, the French member of the Parliament charged with steering the bill through the body. Gauzes said those negotiations will be fast-tracked, “but that doesn’t mean an accord at any price.”

The committee passed the bill by a vote of 33 to 11. Notably, members of the British Conservative Party, which took power alongside the pro-European and pro-hedge fund regulation Liberal Democratic Party last week, voted against the measure.

“We’ve adopted protectionist, fortress Europe policy,” Syed Kamall, one of the Tory MEPs, said. He warned that the measure would both hurt European pension fund returns and bring about retaliatory measures against the EU from other countries, such as the U.S.

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