Community Bankers Mutual Fund

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Granted, money market funds have rarely crossed the "buck" threshold. Since their 1970 induction, money market funds have seen only two dips below $1 per share.

The first instance occurred in 1994, when a fund designed for bankers (not retail investors) slid to 96 cents per share. The fund, Community Bankers Mutual Fund, was liquidated with $82 million in assets. Since most of the fund's shares were owned by banks in the Midwestern United States, the consumer impact was low.

After an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Denver-based fund was found to have broken SEC rules by putting more than 25% of its holdings in risky investments. (For more on investment risk, see How Risky Is Your Portfolio?)

According to law, money funds must keep their holdings in short-term investments, defined as the ability to receive the full principal and interest from the investment within 397 days. The average investment for a fund must not exceed 90 days.

A fund must also avoid:

* Investments that are tied to high credit risk
* Investments that are, or are comparable to, high-risk equities

The Community Bankers Mutual Fund fell victim to the derivatives meltdown of 1994, when they socked away nearly a quarter of their holdings in interest-rates packages. Derivatives gave the fund's advisors the chance to increase leverage in order to gain hefty rewards. Of course, like many institutions in 1994, the market turned against them and millions were lost. (For more on derivatives, see The Barnyard Basics Of Derivatives.)

On January 11, five years after the fund initially broke the buck, the SEC fined the fund's directors $5,000 apiece and imposed a $10,000 fine on fund president John Backlund. Backlund was also suspended from associating with any mutual fund or fund advisor for one year.


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