The firm managing a money-market mutual fund that "broke the buck" last month is shutting down another one of its troubled funds, and is offering little information on how much and when investors can expect money back from the $10 billion fund.
BOSTON — The firm managing a money-market mutual fund that “broke the buck” last month is shutting down another one of its troubled funds, and is offering little information on how much and when investors can expect money back from the $10 billion fund.
After announcing its board had voted to liquidate its U.S. Government Fund, Reserve Management on Thursday posted an online notice that gave no absolute commitment that it would make full cash returns, rather than saddling investors with losses of pennies on the dollar. However, the firm said the value of the fund’s underlying assets remained at $1 per dollar share as of Tuesday.
Reserve manages about two dozen funds, many of which have recently frozen or delayed investors’ orders to pull out money.
An investor in one of those funds, John Traylor, of Jackson, Wyo., said he has been unable to access nearly $108,000 that he parked in the Reserve Treasury Fund through his TD Ameritrade brokerage account.
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After the retired airline pilot recently sold securities in the retirement portfolio he shares with his wife, the idled cash from the sales was placed in the fund, which he had thought was safe because it invests in Treasury bills.
“There are a lot of people like me who are sort of dangling in the wind, wondering when people are going to come forward and say, ‘Here’s what we are going to do for you,’ ” said Traylor, 64. “It’s totally devastating to not be able to get any answers.”
The U.S. Government Fund that New York-based Reserve Management is liquidating invests in short-term debt — not stocks — of such firms as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. While shares of Fannie and Freddie became nearly worthless, their short-term debt obligations didn’t go away because of the government’s Sept. 7 takeover of the mortgage-finance firms.
“We can’t imagine the government not backing these securities, which is another way of saying we expect to recover the full amount when they mature,” Bruce Bent, Reserve’s vice chairman and president, wrote in the firm’s notice. The fund’s short-term securities “are not likely to default, they are just illiquid.”
A recent company statement valued the U.S. Government Fund’s assets at about $10 billion as of Sept. 15, but the firm received investor orders to pull out about $6 billion over the next four days. Withdrawals have been suspended since Sept. 22.
When a fund sees a rush of redemption orders to pull out money, fund managers must sell assets — typically at a loss when it must be done quickly, and especially amid the recent market turmoil.
“If the market becomes liquid, the portfolio holdings should be able to be sold relatively quickly at par,” Bent said of his firm’s Government Fund. “But in today’s market, which is unprecedented, we can’t obtain what we think is a fair price for them. So we intend to hold them until the markets open up or the securities mature.”
Shareholders of another larger fund, Reserve Primary, were told Monday to expect an initial distribution of about $20 billion around Oct. 13 from that fund. The total is nearly one-third of the $64 billion the fund held in assets on Sept. 12.
The Primary Fund broke the buck when its assets fell to 97 cents for each investor dollar after a soured Lehman Brothers investment triggered a rush of redemption orders from investors.
Reserve Management said Thursday that other distributions to Primary shareholders “will follow as dollars become available, either as our assets mature or as we sell them.”
Primary Fund’s troubles have led to several lawsuits, some of which allege Reserve tipped off some institutional investors to the soured Lehman Brothers investment before other investors — an advantage that would have allowed any tipped investors to place early redemption orders and receive a dollar-for-dollar return ahead of others who pulled cash out later and consequently face losses.
“The fund’s portfolio holdings were available to any investor who asked, including the people who have sued us,” Bent said.