US and Europe need to agree on hedge funds

Stuart Fraser
BY CONVENTION, the moment a General Election is announced, central government and the civil service enter what is known as purdah. No decisions can be made with regards to policies that a new government might want to revisit after an election and publicly funded bodies must avoid making public proclamations that may be considered prejudicial or that favour one political party over another.

Whilst the City is a non-party-political organisation we have fundamental positions on key city issues, which transcend party politics and on which we cannot go silent.

Indeed, this week I have been in the USA, meeting with business leaders and policy-makers in New York and Washington, two weeks ago I was in India, with a visit to China in June. So even when constrained by domestic political rules, we are fighting for the City’s global competitiveness.

One of the most contentious issues at the moment is how the hedge fund and private equity industry are to be regulated. A series of letters have been flying back and forth across the Atlantic, which have raised the temperature on these key issues and risk politicising an important issue that should be settled by consensus. Gordon Brown, Angela Merkel, Nicholas Sarkozy and (of course) the EU’s internal markets commissioner, Michel Barnier, have all received letters from the US Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, warning that the EU’s draft AIFM directive could discriminate against US hedge funds if it were to be implemented in its current guise. If a workable outcome is to be obtained, we must avoid threats of trade barriers and restrictions.

Of course neither the EU nor the US should just blindly follow diktats from the other, but nor should either of us enact legislation of this nature unilaterally unless we are prepared for firms to take their business elsewhere and for politicians to consider taking retaliatory action.

Whilst Michel Barnier has pledged that any regulatory reforms emanating from the European Commission will always be based on G20 principles, I hope that any future European proposals adhere not only to the letter of the G20 agreements but also to the spirit in which they were signed and that they do not discriminate against foreign investors or threaten our international competitiveness.

A strong London needs a strong New York and vice versa. If you talk to international financial companies, it is not a question of London or New York: they need to be in both.

We must do all we can to make this happen.

Nick Anstee is the Lord Mayor of London