No Hedge Deal At Heiligendamm

Jun 4 2007 | 9:02am ET

Not one, but three top German officials acknowledged that the country’s hedge fund initiative—a centerpiece of its G8 presidency—will go nowhere at this week’s summit of group leaders.

“We won’t score our big hit in Heiligendamm,” Bernd Pfaffenbach, the German organizer of the meeting, admitted, referring to the Baltic resort town where G8 leaders will meet from Wednesday through Friday. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in an interview published in the magazine Der Spiegel today, indicated that hedge funds would not occupy much time at the summit.

“There are parts of the conference program on which negotiations have practically been concluded,” she said. “For example, the hedge fund issue,” which was discussed at a meeting of G8 finance ministers last month.

But the Germans have been nothing if not tenacious and resilient on the issue, and indicated that this failure has not cooled their enthusiasm for achieving some sort of hedge fund oversight.

“We talked about [hedge funds] at the summit in Gleneagles [in Scotland] in 2005, but ran up against a wall there,” Pfaffenbach told Agence France-Presse. “This time, the U.S. and Britain, where most of the funds are based, are prepared to discuss the issue.”

“That’s a start,” he added hopefully.

Germany’s point man on the issue, Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück, also said his country will continue to try to persuade other countries—in addition to the U.S. and U.K., Japan has indicated it is not inclined to support any sort of hedge fund regulation or oversight—of the efficacy of its position.

“The government is trying to reach international consensus on potential measures that aim to limit potential systemic risks for financial stability,” he wrote in a guest column in the business newspaper Börsen-Zeitung. “Our aim is an international code of conduct, which the industry—also in its own interest—applies to itself. It’s also clear that we’re only at the beginning of the debate and that there will not be any quick decisions.”

“To supplement the indirect approach, I’d like to see market discipline strengthen by making hedge funds more transparent,” he added, reprising a push for more direct involvement dropped by Germany when it went all out for its code of conduct proposal.

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