Florida officials voted to halt withdrawals from a $27 billion local government fund Thursday to stop a run that’s drained nearly half of the fund’s assets.
The run has been fueled by fears that the Local Government Investment Pool — used as a sort of interest-bearing savings account by local governments and schools — has too much exposure to risky securities backed by subprime mortgages and corporate debt.
Despite reassurances from the fund’s managers that its investments are sound, it has dwindled from $27 billion at the beginning of the month to $15 billion. Money managers pulled $3.5 billion from the fund on Thursday alone, before the State Board of Administration voted to suspend all withdrawals, Bloomberg News reported.
The board will meet again Dec. 4 to consider whether the fund will resume processing deposits and withdrawals, and preventative measures such as credit protection for $1.5 billion of downgraded and defaulted holdings. The board issued a report this month detailing holdings in the fund that had been downgraded to below investment grade by rating agencies.
According to Bloomberg News, the fund invested $2 billion in structured investment vehicles and other subprime-related securities. Many such investments have become “illiquid” in recent months because fears about the extent of the housing downturn mean there is little demand for them, making it difficult to determine their value.
Bloomberg reported that 6 percent of the funds assets consist of $900 million in asset-backed commercial paper that has been downgraded to default. The board said those investments have continued to pay principal and interest in amounts totaling $64 million since they were downgraded in August.