UPDATE: Germany Raises The White Flag On Hedge Fund Regs

May 21 2007 | 7:50am ET

After failing to convince a skeptical United States and Britain to support its proposal for a hedge fund code of conduct, Germany is trying a new tack in its effort to tighten oversight of the industry. In effect, Germany will seek to bypass the G8 and European Commission, appealing directly to hedge funds to establish such a code.

The U.S. and U.K. have said they would support a code that came from the industry, but not one that was imposed by regulators. German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück said after a meeting this weekend of G8 finance chiefs in Potsdam, Germany, that should hedge funds adopt a code, “then we have the same opinion” as the Anglo-Saxon powers. But the British Chancellor of the Exchequer—who will succeed Tony Blair as prime minister in six weeks—did not sound especially enthusiastic when asked if a recent Financial Stability Forum report could prompt an industry-supported voluntary code of conduct. He said, “You decide what you think that is.”

The U.S. representative at the Potsdam conference sounded even less sanguine. Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt said, “a code of conduct that is voluntary would be spontaneous and would be developed by the actions of the industry rather than by governments calling on the industry to do something voluntarily.”

Germany is also conceding defeat in its battle to produce some sort of hedge fund regulation or code during its presidency of the G8 this year, acknowledging that the debate would continue under Japan’s presidency of the G8 next year. Japan, it should be noted, has sided with Washington and London on the hedge fund question.

Prior to this weekend’s meetings, Steinbrück and European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet gave some indication of Germany’s new strategy, both noting that the idea of a voluntary code was winning support within the hedge fund industry.

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