FSOC’s Woodall troubled by IAIS’s proposal to limit involvement; others weigh in

The ability for international authorities to confer with policymakers with authority for financial stability in the insurance sector would be greatly hindered under an International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS) proposal to basically cease “Observer” status Jan. 1. argues a member of the US Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC.)

FSOC Independent insurance member Roy Woodall says that the proposal detailed in the IAIS Notice of Request for Comment of Aug. 4, 2014, would render null and void  the purpose for joining as an “Observer” earlier this year, (see http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2014/02/18/320673.htm) and could dampen oversight of global financial stability.

“Relegating systemic risk policymakers to only those opportunities afforded to the general public would reduce the likelihood of effective attainment of the IAIS goal of providing a meaningful contribution towards global financial stability,” Woodall stated in a comment letter to the IAIS late last week.
The IAIS is and must remain a critically important resource to systemic risk policymakers throughout the world.  To achieve its objective of contributing to global financial stability, the IAIS should consider how best to ensure that it continues to have the strongest possible ties with systemic risk policymakers so that they will benefit from and be able to act upon the informed and knowledgeable efforts of the IAIS in the area of global financial stability,” Woodall wrote.

Comments on the proposal are due Sept. 2.

The Notice of Request for Comment announced  two agreements by the  IAIS Executive Committee: an agreement that non-members would no longer generally participate in meetings but rather be invited when necessary to provide targeted, technical input; and that IAIS engagement with outside stakeholders would increase through special sessions, more dissemination of   documents and the use of conference calls as opposed to the in-person high-level meetings the IAIS has been holding  thus far.

But the IAIS proposal could have the unintended effect of excluding policymakers with legal authorities for financial stability regarding the insurance sector and who may not themselves be supervisors–like himself, Woodall argues.

For global financial stability to be most effective it needs experts on the insurance sector, and to include those with legal authority, he points out.

Woodall suggests that the IAIS could provide for participation by systemic risk policymakers as non-voting members, a suggestion that has been thorny in the past.

The IAIS could reconsider revising its bylaws so that  the IAIS could include “national organizations” and their members, which would  include systemic risk policymakers who serve on the FSOC — and members of other similar national bodies elsewhere, Woodall suggests.

For instance, the IAIS has similarly recognized the need for engagement by critical participants in other areas and has welcomed the participation of organizations like the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and others as non-voting members, he notes.

Woodall acted to join as an “Observer” after a proposed IAIS bylaw amendment that would have permitted systemic risk policymakers to join as non-voting members was tabled by the IAIS Executive Committee at the annual meeting in Washington, D.C. in 2012.  U.S. members of the IAIS Executive Committee at the time  were divided on the motion, with reports of concern about the wording and  the inclusion of too many non-specific insurance entities with too broad a view of a jurisdiction’s financial  stability officials.

The NAIC and the U.S.  are already heavyweight members because of their numbers and agencies represented, which include the Federal Insurance Office and the Federal Reserve Board now, too.

Woodall noted that as an “Observer” he benefits from perspective of other Observers, who also would fall off the IAIS rosters under the proposal. Woodall says the other groups help give a by better understanding the implications for industry and consumers of matters under IAIS consideration.

As such, he says he is sympathetic to the goal of ensuring that the IAIS not become wholly detached from those who may be able to provide such important perspectives.

Consumer advocates who recently also were granted Observer status, including those in the U.S. funded through the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) are also slamming the proposal by the IAIS.

Center for Economic Justice (CEJ)’s Birny Birnbaum, a seasoned consumer advocate and also a member of FIO’s advisory committee, criticized the unequal access some parties have had  and its potential effects on all stakeholders, including his constituency, consumers, in his Sept. 2 comments.

“We applaud the IAIS proposal to stop ‘pay-to-play’ and allow any interested party to follow and participate in the activities of the IAIS. However, meaningful participation by consumers of insurance in IAIS processes requires the establishment of a formal IAIS consumer participation program reflecting a commitment to obtain consumer input….”

“We note the irony of a request for comment on public participation procedures with a note on page 1 limiting the information to Members and Observers,” Birnbaum added.

Peter Kochenburger, one of the internationally-focused NAIC consumer advocates, and an insurance law professor at University of Connecticut where he  is executive director of the Law School’s Insurance Law Center, said he agrees with the serious concerns state regulators, insurers and trade associations that the IAIS draft procedures would greatly limit stakeholder involvement.  

“Closing most meetings to outside observers reverses the presumption of openness and transparency, and doesn’t speed up any processes – allowing stakeholders to observe proceedings does not mean IAIS working groups must have public comment periods, or even interact with stakeholders at these sessions,” Kochenburger said.  “If the IAIS was considered a public deliberative body, its draft procedures would violate many state open meeting laws,” he added.  

Consumer observers are further disadvantaged, though, he said.

“We don’t come with the power and resources of insurers and other stakeholders; if we are listened to it is not because of our market share in a country, but the quality of ideas, and commitment and experience in consumer (policyholder) protection.  Our credibility and therefore our effectiveness often depends on speaking publicly at hearings and committees and being able to communicate directly with supervisors.  Much of this will be lost, along with the opportunity to meet consumer observers from other countries, who will now have equally minimal opportunities to meet in person,” Kochenburger said.

The proposed procedures will reduce the opportunity for contributions by closing meetings that once were open, says Property Casualty Insurers Association (PCI)  of America’s Dave Snyder, a long-time Observer.

The general rule in the proposal is that meetings will be closed but guests may be invited in at the discretion of the IAIS.

“This is the most fundamental of all flaws in the new procedures. The reverse should be the case, especially when the role of IAIS, as noted by the paper, has significantly increased,” stated Snyder, who says PCI strongly agrees with the remarks of the NAIC (comments here), which trumpets transparency and stakeholder participation for their own sake and as a means to increase the likelihood of acceptance and overall efficiency.

Snyder welcomed open Executive Committee sessions  but said these would not  compensate for closing other meetings and closing meetings combined with inviting “guests” into them.

Observers have decried  the proposed policy not only because it will change the dynamics  of interaction but because it comes at a critical time–the IAIS is not a sleepy organization leased a few desks by a banking oversight body in Basel, anymore.

A global insurance capital standard by 2016 for globally active insurance groups is under development, with expected  implementation by 2019, alongside the development of capital standards for global systemically important insurers (G-SIIs) and possibly for global reinsurers.

The IAIS is also developing basic capital requirements (BCRs), which are planned to be finalized this year for implementation by global systemically important insurers (G-SIIs.) BCRs will serve as the foundation for higher loss absorbency (HLA) requirements for G-SIIs, and it is anticipated that their development and testing will also inform development of the ICS, the IAIS stated last year.

IAIS observers include in the United States as of 2013:  ACE, INA Holdings Inc .,  ACORD
AFLAC, AM Best, American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI,) American Insurance Association(AIA), AIG, Assured Guaranty Municipal Corp., Barnert Global Ltd., Cigna International Corp. CNA Insurance, Deloitte LLP, DLA Piper, LLP, Duane Morris LLP, Examination Resources LLC, Genworth Financial, Liberty Mutual Group, MassMutual Financial Group, MetLife, New York Life International, Northwestern Mutual, Promontory Financial Group, LLC, Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI), Prudential Financial Inc, Reinsurance Association of America USA, Starr International USA Inc., The Chubb Corp., Transatlantic Reinsurance Co., Travelers Companies, Inc., Treliant Risk Advisers, United Health Group and XL Group.

International organizations such as the International Actuarial Association, the World Federation of Insurance Intermediaries and Insurance Europe are also Observers.

Right now, all eyes are on 21st Annual Conference of the IAIS in Amsterdam, October 23- 24, 2014. The theme of IAIS 2014 will be: ’Enhancing policyholder protection and financial stability through governance and risk management’. The group will decide then how to proceed. See: http://www.iais2014.org/
However, the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI) warns, “that the IAIS should refuse to become an ivory tower bureaucratic elite,” by instead continuing inclusive interaction with diverse stakeholder groups with… those who may not agree on approach but who have the same objectives. “This is how you will be prepared for the next crisis and not the last one,” stated the ACLI comments, written by Robert Neill, formerly of FIO.

Nonbank SIFIs agenda set for Sept. 4 FSOC. Is MetLife SIFI-hood soon?

 Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has scheduled  a closed session of the Financial Stability Oversight Council  (FSOC) for Thursday, Sept. 4.
If  later designated, MetLife would be subject to enhanced prudential supervision from the Federal Reserve Board, with a host of accompanying  holding company oversight and capital standards, a yet to be worked out by the Fed.
A vote by the 10-member Council would not mean a proposed SIFI designation is official until MetLife is given a chance to respond, which may mean it decides to appeal or does nothing and the time-frame to respond elapses.
According to the FSOC’s notice, the preliminary agenda next week includes a discussion of nonbank financial company designations, consideration of the Council’s fiscal year 2015 budget, a discussion of the its analysis on asset management’s systemic risk, if any, and an update on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and FDIC’s recent review of resolution plans submitted by large, complex banking organizations.
Although the book is closed on MetLife now, after an August 19 notational vote by FSOC in a closed session, that doesn’t mean the FSOC is necessarily ready with its proposal to designate MetLife and has scheduled a vote. The  Council agenda’s use of the word “preliminary” means things are still fluid in workflow in that corner of the world that determines SIFI designations. It is also understood, based on earlier minutes referring to presentations from the Federal Insurance Office (FIO) that there is another insurer under review, in Stage 2 of SIFI analysis. This may be Berkshire Hathaway, as was suggested by Bloomberg news reports  in early 2014.
On Aug. 19,  the Council deemed its evidentiary record regarding a nonbank financial company

to be complete in accordance the rules and guidance of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
FSOC will not officially identify the institutions under review until a final determination is made but MetLife, like Prudential Financial land AIG before it, has made no bones about its position. It also has opposed SIFI status in public remarks for well over the year MetLife has been under consideration.
There is legislation pending in the House meant to establish a six-month moratorium on SIFI designations and to make the meetings open to more officials developed by members who fear a black box operation at the FSOC.  Meanwhile, in both chambers of Congress, there is legislation to make Section 171 of Dodd Frank, the so-called Collins Amendment, flexible so it does not establish unwanted minimum capital standards in line with bank models on insurers supervised by the Fed, which include not only SIFIs but insurers with savings and loans. The Fed’s general counsel Scott Alvarez  has issued an opinion that as Section 171 stands, there is no flexibility to carve out a way to treat insurers differently.
MetLife, along with AIG and Prudential, are already deemed to be global systemically important insurers (G-SIIs). reinsurers are expected to be named by the  International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS)  and the G-20’s  Financial Stability Board (FSB) in November.

Yes, the book on MetLife is closed; vote on SIFI desgination next step

The Financial Stability Oversight Council voted Aug. 19 unanimously to close the evidentiary record on a what it says is a nonbank financial company, which we shall refer to as MetLife.
MetLife has been in Stage 3 of the review process for potential designation as a systemically risky financial institution (SIFI) for over a year.
Closing the books is the next step before the FSOC gathers in person or by phone to vote to potentially designate the largest U.S. life insurance company a SIFI, as it has for AIG, GE Capital and Prudential Financial, the second-largest U.S. life insurer. Prudential contested its proposed designation in an appeal, lost its bid and finally accepted it in lieu of a further battle and a higher standard of proof in the courts.
MetLife has long argued that it is not a SIFI, and it will be of interest to many to see whether the vote is unanimous or not.
The vote for Prudential was broken by three dissents, two from voting members Roy Woodall, the appointed independent member with insurance expertise, and Edward DeMarco, then acting chair of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), and one from the representative from the state regulators, Missouri Insurance Director John Huff. The Securuties and Exchange Commission (SEC) had abstained in light of the recent Mary Jo White appointment.
When MetLife reached Stage 3 of the FSOC’s designation process in mid-July 2013, CEO Steven Kandarian stated that,
“I do not believe that MetLife is a systemically important financial institution. The Dodd-Frank Act defines a SIFI as a company whose failure ‘could pose a threat to the financial stability of the United States.’ Not only does exposure to MetLife not threaten the financial system, but I cannot think of a single firm that would be threatened by its exposure to MetLife.”

He argued against the scenario that the FSOC in large used that summer to finally designate Prudential, a run on the bank scenario.

“The life insurance industry is a source of financial stability. Even during periods of financial stress, the long-term nature of our liabilities insulates us against bank-like ‘runs’ and the need to sell off assets,” Kandarian said July 16, 2013.
“If only a handful of large life insurers are named SIFIs and subjected to capital rules designed for banks, our ability to issue guarantees would be constrained. We would have to raise the price of the products we offer, reduce the amount of risk we take on, or stop offering certain products altogether.”
MetLife is already a global systemically important insurer, as designated by the Financial Stability Board (FSB) after a review by the International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS), as are AIG and Prudential.
The FSOC said in its resolution approving the completion of the record that “the nonbank financial company” has submitted written materials and information to the Council and the Office of Financial Research (OFR) and the staffs of the Council members and their agencies have analyzed such materials and information. The council member agencies are led by the Treasury Secretary or his designee. Including him, there are 10 voting members. They are listed here, by agency: http://www.treasury.gov/initiatives/fsoc/about/council/Pages/default.aspx
The OFR was planning on hiring more insurance expertise at one point, in the spring.

NAIC does its housework, ponders internat’l stance amid concerns

Reports from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) summer meeting in Louisville, Ky., demonstrate a desire for the United States to take a uniform national position in international insurance capital regime debates, work on a better way to achieve sound corporate governance and make progress on the reinsurance framework for captives.
On the domestic front, the Executive Committee of the NAIC adopted the XXX/AXXX Triple X/ Actuarial Guideline 38) Reinsurance Framework, which carries with it an action plan to develop proposed changes to the insurer/captive regulations and model laws dealing with ceding reserves in these transactions.
The framework would require the ceding company to disclose the assets and securities used to support the reserves and hold an risk-based capital cushion if the captive does not file RBC. It would not change the statutory reserve requirements. 

The NAIC agreed to move forward to develop a comprehensive framework proposal while numerous groups will develop the details to create the framework, to be approved later by NAIC membership.

The XXX/AG 38 issue propelled itself to the regulatory spotlight more than three years ago in the life actuarial task force meetings, and in the ensuing months and  years, caught the interest of the  Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC), the Federal Insurance Office (FIO) and the Federal Reserve. The pressure to find solutions has been ongoing, with the NAIC using its resources and an outside actuarial consultant to create the semblance of a national system  to deal with what some in the life insurance industry say are redundant reserves that choke their books ad others claim is regulatory arbitrage.

The NAIC also  adopted a Corporate Governance Annual Disclosure Model Act and supporting Model Regulation Monday, Aug.. 18. Under it, U.S. insurers will be required to provide a detailed narrative describing governance practices to their lead state or domestic regulator by June 1st of each year. This narrative will be protected by strict confidentiality measures,  which was vastly important to insurers as they would be baring their governance practices to regulators. 

The new corporate governance disclosure requirements are expected to start in 2016, according to the NAIC.

An international capital standards forum featured insurers and regulators, both from the states and the Federal Reserve Board’s insurance policy shop pushing for a U.S.-centric approach or position, with both life insurance and non-life insurance standards, according to one attendee.
The International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS) is creating insurance capital standards under the auspices of the Financial Stability Board (FSB.)
Insurers are concerned that standards are appropriate to the life insurance industry, which offers long duration products and requires a different valuation principle to capture market swings over a generational period of policy obligations. Otherwise, insurers argue, these market swings could create capital standard costs that would be passed on to consumers making products such as long term care and annuities, essential retirement products, unattractive to consumers.
Even the consumer advocates, who may or may not have a role in the  IAIS going forward, if the IAIS drops its observer status, pointed out that the focus on capital is misplaced, according to attendees. It doesn’t address defective, systemically risky products, it was argued.
Pennsylvania Commissioner Michael Consedine noted that when the U.S. speaks with one voice, it is hard to ignore. Consedine is NAIC vice president and chair of the International Insurance Relations (G) Committee (NAIC) but it is hard to fathom what that will be with the FIO  reflecting the Treasury position and maintaining an essential role at the IAIS, along with the NAIC and now the Federal Reserve.

The NAIC, according to a source recap of the meeting, would like to see any model adequately tested, and generally embraces its approach, which protects consumers and not allow capital to flow outside the policyholder protection net.
Consedine has a big year ahead of him as NAIC president-elect and international leader on state insurance regulatory matters–if his governor, Tom Corbett, a Republican, survives a challenge from Democratic opponent, Tom Wolf. Recent polls show Corbett, who was drastically down in the polls, starting to gain some points back.

Another veteran on the international state regulatory scene, the previous head of the G Committee and a member of the IAIS executive committee, Tom Leonardi, is also appointed by a governor facing a tough reelection campaign in Connecticut, where the Republican contender, Tom Foley is polling ahead of Gov. Dannell Malloy.

Leonardi said that although there are potential benefits to adoption of a uniform global capital standard, he still questions the need for a global capital standard. Capital is not fungible, particularly when a company is in financial distress, he noted at the meeting. Implementation with another capital standard that has little in common with existing regulatory standards and industry practices make it a very expensive process to implement, he told attendees at the event.  There is a need to look at a jurisdiction’s entire solvency regulatory regime, which is not standard around the world, Leonardi noted.  

A concern we have, stated Montana Insurance Commissioner and current NAIC president-elect  Monica Lindeen in  an International Insurance Society address June 23,  “is that the last crisis was a banking crisis, not an insurance crisis, yet much of the international discussion and some of the prescriptions proposed for insurers seem very similar to banking solutions developed by banking regulators.”

“In the U.S., we regulate insurance on a legal-entity basis…. If the liabilities are in the U.S., then we expect the assets and capital that support the U.S. business to be there as well. In fact, the strongest protection to the financial system and policyholders might well be that each legal entity, including the holding company, holds capital commensurate with its risks,” Lindeen told the international audience.

Renewed FACI to meet Thursday, group now weighted with industry execs

The Federal Advisory Committee on Insurance (FACI) meets today, Aug. 7, in Washington, with a slate of new members. For the first time, industry participants outnumber state regulators.
The agenda is broad, including the first time the committee will meet to discuss the FIO report, How to Modernize and Improve the System of Insurance Regulation in the United States, issued in December.
There are nine high-level insurance or broker industry members, including two from non-U.S.-domiciled holding companies, two academics, the addition of a state legislator with insurance interests, one consumer advocate and eight state insurance regulators. State regulators number eight for a total of 21 members.
FIO Director Michael McRaith oversees the committee, which will again be chaired by the CEO of Marsh & McLennan Cos., this time in the person of Dan Glaser rather than the retired Brian Duperreault.
Originally, half the slots were for state regulators.
Seven are original members of the 15 named almost three years ago, when industry members numbered six participants, state regulators seven, with the addition of one each of an academic representative and a consumer advocate. A few represent the same firms or entities as their predecessors.
The FACI is also scheduled to review of the renewed charter of the FACI and give a status report on international developments. McRaith is a member of the International Association of Insurance Supervisors, and Pennsylvania insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine chairs the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) International Committee (G) as well as NAIC vice president. The G Committee is scheduled to have a conference call to discuss, among other things, technical issues with the IAIS’ Basic Capital Requirements (BCR) consultation paper at about the same time as the FACI meeting.
There will also probably be an update on the The EU-U.S. Insurance Project, in which other FACI members are involved. By end 2014, the steering committee of the project has proposed to evaluate the use of a covered agreement to achieve the group supervision stated objectives such as working towards achieving greater comparability between groups in relation to an overall group solvency assessment.
One original and continuing member, Benjamin Lawsky, New York’s Superintendent of Financial Services, recently wrote to members of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, which include McRaith as a nonvoting member, asking for careful consideration in the Council’s review of MetLife as a potential systemically important financial institution and noting that MetLife’s life insurance businesses already are “closely and carefully regulated” by the state of New York and other regulators.

The domestic  insurers named as SIFIs so far by the FSOC,  Prudential Financial and AIG, now have executives on the FACI, as does Allianz, deemed a  global systemically important insurer, as designated by the IAIS/Financial Stability Board (FSB.) Prudential and AIG are also G-SIIs, as is MetLife. Only MetLife, expected to be named a potential SIFI by FSOC soon, is not represented on FACI. Prudential Financial is now overseen on a consolidated basis by the Boston Federal Reserve Bank and AIG by the New York Fed.
The original FACI charter called for the FACI to consist of not more than 15 members. The duties of the FACI are “solely advisory and shall extend only to the submission of advice and recommendations to the FlO, which shall be non-binding,” to the original charter. No determination of fact or policy shall be made by the Committee, according to this 2011 charter, which was renewed in August 2013 for another two years.
FACI has met in person, in public meetings, about half a dozen times since its first meeting in March 2012, and weighed in heavily on the topics of availability and affordability of insurance and the use of captive arrangements by insurers, in open discussions which sometimes turned tense as when former FACI member Thomas Leonardi sparred with McRaith on whether the investigation of captives was even necessary by FACI and FIO. There were also forays into catastrophes, the national flood program and Superstorm Sandy, and an overall broad commitment to look into the retirement and aging of the world’s insurance-buying public.
However,the FACI has seemingly been dormant for at least half a year, although phone calls are not made public.
The 21 individuals (Asterisk denotes original member)appointed today to the Federal Advisory Committee on Insurance include:

· Gary Bhojwani, Chairman of Allianz of America

* Birny Birnbaum, Executive Director, Center for Economic Justice

· Elizabeth Brown, Professor, Georgia State University

* Michael Consedine, Commissioner, Pennsylvania Insurance Department

· Brenda Cude, Professor, University of Georgia

* Jacqueline Cunningham, Commissioner, Virginia Bureau of Insurance

· John Franchini, Superintendent, New Mexico Office of the Superintendent of Insurance

* Loretta Fuller, CEO & CFO, Insurance Solutions Associates

· Nicholas Gerhart, Commissioner, Iowa Insurance Division

· Daniel Glaser, President & CEO, Marsh & McLennan Companies (Chair of the Committee–was Brian Duperreault, retired CEO of Marsh)

· Mark Grier, Vice Chairman, Prudential Financial, Inc.

· David Herzog, EVP & CFO, American International Group, Inc.

· George Keiser, Representative, North Dakota House of Representatives

· James Kelleher, EVP & Chief Legal Officer, Liberty Mutual Insurance

* Scott Kipper, Commissioner, Nevada Division of Insurance

* Benjamin Lawsky, Superintendent, New York Department of Financial Services

· Theodore Mathas, Chairman, President & CEO, New York Life Insurance Company (was Michael Sproule from NY Life)

* Sean McGovern, Chief Risk Officer & General Counsel, Lloyd’s of London

· Julie McPeak, Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance

· Franklin (Tad) Montross, Chairman, President & CEO, General Re Corporation

· Theodore Nickel, Commissioner, Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance