- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 24, 2009

BOSTON | A money-market mutual fund that held more than $60 billion before it notoriously “broke the buck” a year ago said Wednesday it will hand out $1 billion in a fifth distribution to investors from the fund’s remaining assets.

The $1 billion distribution, the smallest of five partial payouts since the Reserve Primary Fund’s collapse, will be made to shareholders on or about Oct. 2, said New York-based Reserve Management Co., which ran the fund.

After that payout, the fund will hold about $3.5 billion. The final distribution and its timing is tied up in a pending civil fraud case brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission against Reserve Management and its two top executives.

At a hearing in New York on Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Gardephe said he was inclined to set a Dec. 23 deadline by which the bulk of the remaining assets should be distributed to the fund’s thousands of shareholders.

The fund had held more than $64 billion shortly before Sept. 16, 2008, when its net asset value fell below the $1 level needed to ensure investors a dollar-for-dollar return of their principal put into the fund. The fund declared $785 million that it held in Lehman Brothers debt worthless after the investment bank’s bankruptcy filing. That sank the fund’s net asset value to 97 cents, leading to the fund’s collapse as institutional investors demanded cash back and fund managers were forced to sell assets at steep discounts amid plunging markets.

The episode was the first such investor exposure to money-market losses since 1994, and created fears about the safety of the more than $3 trillion in assets held in money-market funds that are normally considered nearly as safe as cash. The government responded with a temporary government guarantee program that expired last week.

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