Since October 2008, the federal government’s Transaction Account Guarantee (TAG) program has provided unlimited FDIC insurance on businesses’ non-interest-bearing transaction accounts, which are generally used to meet short-term liquidity needs, such as payroll processing. As of June 30, 2012, there was $1.6 trillion in non-interest bearing transaction accounts, according to the FDIC. Of that amount, $1.4 exceeded the coverage limit of $250,000 per account. But that could soon change as the program is set to expire at the end of the year. Beginning January 2013, the FDIC will insure deposit assets only up to $250,000.
As CFO.com points out, corporations accustomed to getting “something for nothing” may seek to reallocate some of those assets. But finding a new home may not be that easy. At the current rate of $30 billion per week, it would take the U.S. Treasury a year to issue enough short-term debt to absorb the excess supply.
Meanwhile, there has been pressure to reform money-market funds. For much of 2012, the Securities and Exchange Commission has publicly floated ideas to change how money-market funds operate, from requiring a floating share price or mandating a cash reserve “buffer.” While the SEC lacked the internal votes to formally propose any reforms, the Financial Stability Oversight Council, chaired by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, has since taken up the issue, prompting pushback from a number of financial industry groups.
The bottom line for institutional and individual investors alike is that changes are most likely in the pipeline for today’s conservative, short-term investment vehicles, which could leave many searching for alternatives.