Thursday’s Child: Vote on TRIA renewal now set for Friday, June 20

The new U.S. House Terrorism Risk Insurance Act extension bill will go to a vote Friday morning, now, in the House Financial Services Committee (HFSC)  after a long debate Thursday, with a variety of amendments added and withdrawn into the afternoon.

The bill , H.R. 4871, appears to poised to move to the floor along party-line votes, although both Democrats and some  Republicans have qualms about some of the provisions. If it does not pass, the HFSC leadership will allow “a clean,” half-year extension only to go to the  House Floor.

However, all was studied politeness and patriotism at the mark-up today as Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling,R-Texas,  thanked members for voicing their opposing views while noting that the bill has been debated for over a year, and all sides heard. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) was among  the first out with a statement from the Democrats opposing the  bill, even though she sad it was a “significant improvement over previous drafts.” Her concerns  are increasing the trigger for the government backstop from $100 million to $500 million; and treating “conventional” terrorist attacks differently from so-called “NBCR attacks” – nuclear, biological, chemical, and radiological attacks.

“These changes would drive small- and medium-sized insurers out of the market entirely – which would actually reduce the amount of terrorism insurance available to businesses,” Maloney stated.

There have been a number of changes in TRIA over the past dozen years, Hensarling said, to parry complaints about the proposed rise of the trigger to $500 million, along with increases in the recoupment and co-pay amounts.

However, the increase to $500 from $100 million is 500%, not the incremental percentage changes of earlier increases in industry cost amounts, several lawmakers  on both sides of the aisle argued. Hensarling said that the bill, sponsored by Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R Texas, chair of the Housing and Insurance Subcommittee,  is not an end to TRIA at all, as seems to be the theme among  some of his his colleagues,  as he said.  “To amend it is not to end it, he said.

But with the current legislation, “You have a program but no one can afford it,” said Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Mass. Rep. David Scott, D-Ga.,  even went as far as to suggest a $500 million trigger would be fodder for terrorists now watching Congress’ every move on TRIA, including one that would be “foolish” and “irresponsible” by placing the U.S. “on its knees” in its ability to regain its footing and rebuild after a terrorist event by effectively getting rid of the federal backstop, as he believes the  legislation’s higher trigger amount would do.

One significant addition is the inclusion of NARAB II, a non-profit clearinghouse, the National Association of Registered Agents and Brokers (NARAB) that would streamline non-resident market access for insurance agents and brokers by allowing full multi-state uniformity and reciprocity while keeping state  market conduct authority “to police bad actors,” as the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) puts it. Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., did  question the need with an amendment for a review of NAIC governance pursuant to NAIC’s role in NARAB 2, and its authority to  recommending board members to the President, who would make the appointments. Another attempted amendment was the addition of the so-called Collins Amendment fix.

Like the FSOC, the Collins (Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine) Amendment is a part of the Dodd Frank Act (DFA.) This amendment, DFA Section 171, does require minimum capital standards on all thrifts and bank holding companies as well as on nonbank systemically important financial institutions regulated by the Federal Reserve.

The fix offered by Rep. Gary Gene Miller, R-Calif, and Rep.  Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y.,  and supported by the Senate by and large, would free insurers as such from the minimum leverage capital requirements and minimum risk-based capital requirements on a consolidated basis.

For further coverage, see http://www.carriermanagement.com on Friday with information on the final House vote on TRIA and on legislation to put the brakes on, and allow more oversight of, the U.S. Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC.)

“We look forward to the Committee reconvening tomorrow to vote on the TRIA reauthorization provisions pending before the Committee. We are also very pleased that NARAB II was adopted by the Committee and will be included in the House TRIA Reform Act,” stated Nat Wienecke, senior vice president, federal government relations, of the Property Casualty Insurance Association of America.

Congress passed the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002 in the aftermath of 9/11 for fear that the lack of available terrorism insurance could harm economic development and since 2002 the market has stabilized, risk management has improved, modeling has advanced, and premiums have decreased by 70%, according to Neugebauer.

TRIA renewal teed up in House but legislation sharing the day may put brakes on FSOC

The House Financial Services Committee (HFSC) has a full agenda Thursday, June 19, with a mark up  and likely passage of the Terrorism  Risk Insurance Act Reform Act of 2014, which will extend the program for five years, albeit with an increased co-pay, and higher  program trigger amounts, through Dec. 31, 2019, along with consideration of  bills to slow down and open up to Congressional eyes  the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC).

Housing and Insurance Subcommittee Chairman Randy Neugebauer is introducing the bill before the full committee.

The ease with which the House bill has been accepted, although it is more austere in what is provided for the insurance industry  than the Senate TRIA version, combined with the support for action, likely means the House legislation will sail through with broad Republican support,  until it meets the softer Senate version in conference committee. Then, real tussling could begin.

How the House Democrats will vote on Thursday is said to be a major factor in how the bill moves forward.

If the Democrats on the HFSC are led in a  vote against the TRIA renewal bill, there could be a floor fight. If they vote for it, the bill could go forward on the suspension calendar next week on two-thirds of a vote.

A key question is the Thursday vote of Rep. Carol Maloney, D-NY,  ranking member of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets and GSEs.

Maloney stated in May that raising the program trigger for conventional terrorist events from $100 million to $500 million  and increasing the recoupment of federal payments to 150 percent, which are both features in the Neugebauer bill, “are changes that go far beyond what the market will bear. The economic consequences of these proposed changes to TRIA for metropolitan areas like New York, which continue to be at risk of another attack, would be disastrous.”

However, her office pointed out that since key components have changed, this statement does NOT apply to the current draft.

Another major consideration the industry is concerned about is how  the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scores the bill, and for how much, given the proposed recoupment level.

Beginning on January 1, 2016, the House bill increases the amount that the Treasury Secretary is required to collect through terrorism loss risk-spreading premiums from 133 to 150 percent of the federal payments made subject to mandatory recoupment. The bill clarifies that the amount of federal payments subject to mandatory recoupment shall be equal to the lesser of the total of federal payments made or the insurance marketplace aggregate retention amount.

But so far the insurance industry is on board to get this bill quickly  through Chairman Jeb Hensarling’s, R-Texas,  committee.

“Any sign of progress is a welcome one,” said Jimi Grande, political affairs senior vice president for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC) of the bill that would bifurcate nuclear, biological, chemical or radiological type (NBCR) of attacks from the conventional terrorism trigger amounts.

The American Insurance Association (AIA) praised the growing momentum for TRIA reauthorization in the House but cautioned that certain provisions of the bill could decrease market capacity, citing the bifurcation of conventional terrorism acts with the NBCR attacks. This differentiation “falsely assumes that the insurance market operates based on the same distinctions,” stated AIA president and CEO Leigh Ann Pusey.

Ken Crerar, president and CEO of the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers (CIAB) stated the organization which represents the largest commercial insurance brokerage firms is “so gratified to see great legislative progress…”

“We hope the Committee and the full House act swiftly so that the Congress can send TRIA legislation to the President for his signature before the August recess,” stated Nat Wienecke, senior vice president, federal government relations at the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI).

PCI and its member companies applauded what they said were several improvements that have been made in the legislation, including the “reasonable reauthorization duration, maintenance of the “20% insurer deductible,” and incorporation of  “very important technical corrections to the terrorism certification process.”

The Senate bill, S. 2244, contains a seven-year reauthorization and is awaiting a full vote by the Senate.

“We echo the calls of all the key stakeholders for the Financial Services Committee to advance the legislation which has been authored by Chairman Neugebauer. We’re particularly grateful for the Chairman’s decision to seek a five-year extension of the program—just one of many substantive improvements that have been made after close and deliberate consultation with all of the major interests in recent weeks,” Crerar stated.

As Crerar noted, the appropriate federal role in the terrorism insurance marketplace has been debated for 13 years —  and this is the fourth Congressional debate.

There are industry exposure concerns with the House bill but not many were voiced today, in advance of the mark-up.

The House bill increase of trigger amounts to $500 million at the end of five years, can be absorbed by large companies if their coverage as one company does not saturate the marketplace or have too great an area of concentration, but smaller insurers, who may be able to opt out of offering coverage, cannot absorb the higher amounts readily. The tilt in  terrorism risk exposure to only a few, large companies could  skewer the marketplace and raise prices, insurers worry.  And some in the insurance industry remain skeptical of the large co-share or co-pay on top of an already sharply increased trigger amount for federal coverage.

Congress, by and large, wants the industry to fend for itself more in underwriting terrorism risk but almost all of the insurance industry, although conceding the point, says it is not ready to fully expose itself to known and unquantifiable future losses because they are almost impossible now to underwrite and the capacity for full exposure is not there.

With regard to other proposed  insurance reform measures, many in the industry hope that Neugebauer can attach the ‘NARAB II’ legislation to facilitate interstate agent/broker nonresident licensure to the TRIA legislation. NARAB has support from almost all quarters, including the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) and the Federal Insurance Office (FIO.)

The full HFSC will also mark up legislation to place a six-month moratorium on the authority of the FSOC to make financial stability decisions under section 113 of Dodd Frank. Asset managers and mammoth insurer MetLife, which has been under intensive review by the FSOC for almost a year as a systemically important financial institution, have resisted the suggestions that they are systemically risky  the financial markets.

Both the FSOC and the global Financial Stability Board (FSB) have begun examining whether regulated funds or their managers could pose risk to the overall financial system and thus should be deemed SIFIs.

U.S. mutual funds designated as SIFIs would be subject to new, bank-style prudential regulation that could significantly harm funds and the investors who rely upon them. Singling out individual mutual funds for inappropriate regulation or supervision would raise costs for fund investors and distort competition, among other harmful effects, according to the Investment Company Institute Viewpoints blog.

The HSFC will also be marking up H.R. 4387, the FSOC transparency and Accountability Act.

This bill would open up to varying degrees of participation  the FSOC processes to members of Congress, and to the boards and commissions of the agencies that serve on the FSOC, from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)  to the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA.)  It would also make the FSOC subject to both the Sunshine Act and  the Federal Advisory Committee Act. It was introduced by Capital Markets and GSEs Subcommittee Chairman Scott Garrett, R-N.J.

The U.S. Treasury, which houses FSOC, did not comment on the FSOC measures but rarely comments on the particulars of  legislation. Treasury and the Obama Administration have acknowledged their support of TRIA renewal.

“I should add that we, Treasury, applaud the strong bipartisan action by the Senate Banking Committee to preserve the long-term availability and affordability of property and casualty insurance for terrorism risk.  A report of the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets recently affirmed the importance of TRIA to the national economy.  We look forward to swift action by the full Senate and the House to extend the program,” FIO Director Michael McRaith stated in a recent speech in New York this month.

How this will play  out if  the somewhat-hobbling FSOC legislation is attached to the TRIA renewal bill is another story. The next closed FSOC meting is next week, on June 24.