The firm managing a money-market mutual fund that "broke the buck," threatening the stability of the $3 trillion money-fund industry, plans...
BOSTON — The firm managing a money-market mutual fund that “broke the buck,” threatening the stability of the $3 trillion money-fund industry, plans to return cash to investors — a pledge that remains elusive for shareholders who can’t access money in another troubled fund run by the same firm.
Reserve Management is liquidating its Primary Fund, where assets fell in value two weeks ago to 97 cents for each investor dollar put in.
The New York-based firm said Monday night it expects to distribute cash on or about Oct. 13 to shareholders who are now facing losses of pennies on the dollar, based on shares held Sept. 15.
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Brokerages such as TD Ameritrade will pitch in a combined $118 million to recoup some of the losses for clients who had used the Primary Fund to automatically park idled cash in their brokerage accounts and earn interest.
But investors in another smaller fund, Reserve Yield Plus, still have hundreds of millions they can’t take out, with no indication when or how much they’ll get back from the $1 billion fund.
TD Ameritrade, which holds a majority of Yield Plus’ shares, has not extended a loss-recovery pledge to Yield Plus shareholders as it has with Primary Fund.
Yield Plus is an “enhanced cash fund,” similar to a money-market fund because it invests in short-term debt. But it technically isn’t a money fund because it operates under less-stringent investing and disclosure rules than are set for money funds.
However, some TD Ameritrade investors allege their brokers led them to believe Yield Plus was a money fund, offering quick access to cash when needed, and a safe haven in troubled times.
“All summer I had been gloating that we had been protecting our money from all the volatility, but lo and behold, we weren’t,” said Janet Hadingham, a 58-year-old graphic artist from Wayland, Mass.
She and her husband socked away $163,000 into Reserve Yield Plus last spring. The money — the vast majority of the family’s savings — was an inheritance from Hadingham’s mother-in-law.
Before putting it in Yield Plus, Hadingham had taken the cash out of mutual funds invested in stocks and bonds, which are normally riskier than the short-term government and corporate debt that money funds hold.
Money from Yield Plus hasn’t been returned to investors within the normal seven days of customer requests for withdrawals, and Hadingham worries she won’t be able to fully recover losses or even draw from the fund to cover her daughter’s tuition when she begins college next year.
“And, we worry about how we will pay for retirement,” Hadingham said. “I would never dream of placing 80 percent of our assets into one short-term bond fund, or any single mutual fund other than a cash or money market.”
Reserve Management said Monday its distribution for Primary Fund investors will total $20 billion, or nearly one-third of the fund’s total assets Sept. 12 — just before institutional investors such as pension funds placed redemption orders en masse because of a soured Lehman Brothers investment the fund had made.
The rush forced fund managers to quickly unload assets at a loss.
Primary Fund’s troubles triggered mass redemptions at other funds including Yield Plus, and also led to the Treasury Department’s new program to use $50 billion to guarantee money funds.
Guarantees don’t extend to Primary Fund because it broke the buck before a Sept. 19 cutoff, and the backing doesn’t cover funds like Yield Plus that aren’t technically money-market funds.
Below a buck
Yield Plus, which counts shares in the Primary Fund among its assets, fell to an asset value of 97 cents per investor dollar Sept. 16. A Reserve Management spokeswoman declined to comment on when those investors could see cash back, or if they might get less than 97 cents on the dollar.
The $50 million that TD Ameritrade has pledged to help cover losses by Primary Fund shareholders doesn’t extend to Yield Plus investors because TD Ameritrade offered the two investments to clients differently, said Kim Hillyer, a spokeswoman for the Omaha, Neb.-based firm.
Another Yield Plus investor, Rod Bernstein, believes TD Ameritrade portrayed the investment as a money-market fund, “although in reality the investment rules the fund operated under never qualified it as such.”
Bernstein says he placed redemption orders shortly before and after the Primary Fund broke the buck, hoping to use the cash to buy stocks he saw as buying opportunities in a volatile market. But he says all the money he tried to pull out has remained frozen.
“It feels like having your house robbed,” Bernstein said.