Hedge Fund Regulation Battle Gets Spiritual

Oct 8 2009 | 1:22am ET

Last year, three senior Church of England clerics warned that hedge fund managers were risking eternal damnation with their greed. But on further reflection—and with an eye on their own bottom line—the church is singing a significantly different hymn.

The Anglican Church has joined the chorus of concern about the European Union’s proposed hedge fund regulations. But the church isn’t simply looking out for its flock—the overwhelming majority of the European hedge fund industry is based in London—but for itself.

“We are concerned that the directive as currently drafted will significantly restrict our ability to generate funds to pursue our charitable missions and thus reduce our impact for public good,” the church’s commissioners, including Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote to the British House of Lords’ EU select committee. “Maximizing the returns on our investment portfolios is an essential part of delivering our foundations’ missions, for the benefit of society.”

In particular, the Anglican leaders said they were worried about proposals that could restrict it and other European investors to funds domiciled in the EU exclusively and possible leverage limits.

While the church’s top officials were castigating short-sellers as “bank robbers and asset strippers” and hedge fund managers for the “grabbing of things in the world,” its own portfolio was taking a nosedive. The Financial Times reports that the Anglican Church’s investments lost almost 23% last year, a loss of more than £1 billion (US$1.6 billion).

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