The Securities and Exchange Commission’s plan to require money market funds to let their asset values float looks like it is dead in the water, judging from the SEC’s efforts to paddle away from the idea.

Even commissioners who are seen as supportive of the idea seem cowed by industry opposition. When SEC commissioner Elisse Walter, in a speech at the Investment Company Institute’s annual Mutual Funds and Investment Management Conference in Phoenix on March 19th, said she would speak on “a topic that is near and dear to your hearts and to mine — money market funds,” she also said she could “feel the oxygen leaving the room.”

Walter’s remarks followed those of ICI general counsel Karrie McMillan, who had termed the SEC’s plans for money fund reform “outrageous.”

What a difference a few months makes. Last November, SEC chairman Mary Schapiro made it known that the SEC was going to go for a second round of rulemaking on money market funds as a follow-on to the original reforms it adopted in February 2010. In a major speech at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association’s annual meeting in New York City, Schapiro said the first round of reforms had “tightened credit quality standards, shortened weighted-average maturities and, for the first time, imposed a liquidity standard,” but she described the stable $1.00 net asset value (NAV), which is unique to money market funds, as “brittle” and said the SEC was considering making money funds float their NAVs — like all other mutual funds — while also requiring them to institute “capital buffers, possibly combined with redemption restrictions.”

....