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Barney Frank backtracks on private equity rules

May 20, 2015, 5:49 PM UTC
Tribeca Film Festival 2014 Portrait Studio - Day 9
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 25: Former U.S. Representative and documentary subject Barney Frank from "Compared to What: The Improbable Journey of Barney Frank" poses for the Tribeca Film Festival Getty Images Studio on April 25, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival)
Photograph by Andrew H. Walker — Getty Images for the 2014 Tribec

Back in January, former Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) surprised a private equity conference audience, by suggesting that the Dodd-Frank financial reform package had been a bit too tough on private equity firms. Specifically, he was discussing the legislation’s requirement that private equity firms register with the SEC as investment advisors once they hit $150 million in assets under management.

“In the crisis situation, we erred on the side of maybe being too inclusive,” Frank said at the time, according to peHUB. “I would seriously recommend that they look at raising that amount… I would be inclined to give more power to the regulators. Give the SEC the power to adjust [the $150 million threshold] upwards after a certain period of years.”

The comments were applauded by many in the private equity community — particularly smaller managers that have complained registration is disproportionately expensive for firms that don’t pose any systemic risk. And it seemed like they could be used as a cudgel against Democrats by private equity industry lobbyists. After all, even the guy whose name is on the bill thinks that the $150 million floor is too low.

But now Frank appears to be walking back his January remarks.

Earlier this month, Frank appeared at a conference about ending institutional corruption, hosted by Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. He was asked about his comments by an audience member, and basically plead ignorance.

“I don’t fully recall that,” Frank said in his reply. “I may have misspoken… We did start out with a somewhat lower level. I may not have understood the question… We did want all the firms to be covered by the regulation.”

You can watch video of the entire conference panel on which Frank spoke by going here. This particular issue arises at around the 1:06:30 mark.

Fortune has emailed Frank for further clarification, but we’ve not yet heard back.

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