Senator Seeks To Give SEC Registration Power

May 16 2007 | 12:07pm ET

In striking down the Securities and Exchange Commission’s hedge fund registration rule last year, a federal appeals court ruled that the agency did not have the statutory authority to promulgate such a regulation. The ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee hopes to change that.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) yesterday introduced a bill explicitly giving the SEC that authority. Under his measure, hedge fund managers with at least 15 investors and more than $50 million in assets would be required to register, “so that the government knows who they are and what they’re doing.”

Grassley tried in March to push through the change in the Investment Advisers Act with an amendment to a homeland security appropriates bill, but it failed.

“This legislation didn’t have too many friends the last time I introduced it as an amendment,” Grassley said on the Senate floor. “These funds don’t want people to know what they do and have fought hard to keep it that way. Well, I think that’s all the more reason to shed some sunlight on them to see what they’re up to.”

It is unclear that the new bill will make any more friends. Grassley, and fellow Republican hedge fund antagonists like Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), are caught between two groups without much sympathy for such measures. On the one side is the Democratic-controlled Congress, which has not indicated much interest in pursuing legislation directed at an industry that provides huge amounts of money for Democratic campaigns. On the other side is the Bush administration, which is helping to torpedo similar international pro-transparency measures proffered by Germany.

Grassley said his interest in hedge fund transparency stems from his fears for U.S. pension systems, many of which have hedge fund investments.

“I worked very hard for passage of these new pension protections,” he said in a statement. “Now I want to make sure that what Congress achieved with my pension legislation isn’t undone by hedge fund secrecy.”

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