New York Fed president Tim Geithner is worried that market failures such as "lack of information, incentive conflicts and moral hazard" are causing risk levels in hedge fund markets to grow and, if the growth of risk continues, increased regulation of the markets may be required. He's cautious because, "With too much government intervention, innovation is constrained and the system is stifled." However, "With too little, the probability of systemic crisis may rise to levels that are unacceptably high":
NY Fed chief warns on hedge funds, by David Wighton and Peter Thal Larsen, Financial Times: Hedge funds may need to be regulated because of the increasing risk they could pose to the financial system, according to the head of the New York Federal Reserve... Geithner ... said supervision of core banks and investment banks had encouraged the transfer of risk to unregulated institutions such as hedge funds.
Their growth was now increasing the risk that if they ran into problems, it could damage the regulated core. ... Mr Geithner said that, for the moment, regulators should continue to focus on encouraging the banks and brokers that lend to hedge funds to improve their “counterparty discipline” of the funds.
But, over time, the growth in hedge funds “will force us to consider how to adapt the design and scope of the supervisory framework to achieve the protection against systemic risk that is so important to economic growth and stability.” ...
Mr Geithner ... [said] ... the ... effectiveness of this market discipline may be compromised by “market failures” such as lack of information, incentive conflicts and moral hazard. “Supervision and regulation have the potential to help mitigate these sources of market failure,” he said.
We don't know enough about these markets, particularly their vulnerability to large shocks. [Update: The WSJ's Greg Ip has more].