The Trump-era working group suggested a variety of fixes. Some would revise when gates and fees kicked in, while another would create a private-sector backstop. That would essentially admit that the funds might encounter problems, but try to ensure that government money wasn’t at stake.
If history is any guide, pushing through changes is not likely to be an easy task.
Back in 2012, the effort included a President’s Working Group report, a comment process, a round table and S.E.C. staff proposals. But those plans were scrapped after three of five S.E.C. commissioners signaled that they would not support them.
“The issue is too important to investors, to our economy and to taxpayers to put our head in the sand and wish it away,” Mary Schapiro, then the chair of the S.E.C., said in August 2012, after her fellow commissioners made their opposition known.
In 2014, rules that instituted fees, gates and floating values for institutional funds invested in corporate paper were approved in a narrow vote under a new S.E.C. head, Mary Jo White.
Kara M. Stein, a commissioner who took issue with the final version, argued in 2014 that sophisticated investors would be able to sense trouble brewing and move to withdraw their money before the delays were imposed — exactly what seems to have happened in March 2020.
“Those reforms were known to be insufficient,” Ben S. Bernanke, a former Fed chair, said at an event on Jan. 3.
The question now is whether better changes are possible, or whether the industry will fight back again. While asking a question at a hearing this year, Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican from Pennsylvania and chair of the Banking Committee, volunteered a statement minimizing the funds’ role.
“I would point out that money market funds have been remarkably stable and successful,” Mr. Toomey said.
Alan Rappeport contributed reporting.