Getting Back to Bear: SEC Says “Orderly” Wind Down Likely

Following up on the hedge fund troubles I’ve blogged about incessantly over the past few weeks, at least Bear Stearns can apparently breathe more easily at this point. The SEC wieghed today in on the likely impact of the near-meltdown of two subprime-heavy hedge funds at Bear Stearns:

“Although the situation remains in flux, it appears” that the Bear Stearns funds will “be able to unwind in an orderly fashion, with limited impact on the broader market,” Erik Sirri, the Washington-based SEC’s director of market regulation, told the House Financial Services Committee today.

Of course, the broader issue now isn’t the effect of the Bear Stearns funds per se, but the effect of massive ratings cuts from rating agencies spanning subprime bonds and derivative securities. The rating agencies are apparently no longer content to sit idly by while people like Ohio AG Marc Dann begin to publicly pry into whether Fitch, S&P and Moody’s “aided and abetted” fraud by refusing to take action earlier. Not to be overshadowed by any rating agency, U.S. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank — proving again his penchant for being the bridesmaid and never the bride — came out and told everyone what they already knew:

Frank said hedge funds pose potential risks to the financial system and that the existing federal regulatory structure may not be adequate to handle them. “We have a kind of an easy consensus that there is a potential problem here that we wish we were more sure about how to approach,” said Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat.

Frank also said he will “probably” enact hedge fund legislation he first proposed in March, according the Bloomberg report. Given that it took him three — count them, three! — hearings to get this far, I wouldn’t hold my breath on seeing that legislation anytime this year. (Or next.)

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