MetLife appeal of proposed ‘risky’ designation Nov. 3

MetLife will have it’s hearing on whether it is systemically risky before the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) Monday, Nov. 3, according to the New York-based behemoth.
The questions that remain aren’t whether the arguments MetLife make will sway the 10-voting-member Council, which voted on the proposed designation as a systemically risky financial institution (SIFI), with nine in favor and none opposed, with appointed Independent Insurance Expert Roy Woodall voting “present.”
The questions are what the ‘basis’ is for MetLife’s expected designation–which only FSOC nad MetLife know at thei time–and whether MetLife will take the matter to the court system after an appeal to FSOC is likely lost.
When Prudential Financial was designed a SIFI, the basis began with the company in distress and runs on the bank envisaged, Woodall dissented on that argument and on the vote, and pointed to an alternative basis of risky activities as a better approach. Since Woodall did not dissent but merely did not vote in MetLife’s proposed designation, the run-on-the-bank scenario may have been ditched in favor of another “basis.”
In a footnote in his Prudential Financial dissent, Woodall noted: “The Council has based its conclusion solely on what is referred to as the First Determination Standard; namely: “material financial distress at the nonbank financial company could pose a threat to the financial stability of the United States.” The Council did not consider Prudential under the “Second Determination Standard,” which relates to specific activities of the company….”
Woodall summarized that FSOC had identified three transmission channels as avenues by which a nonbank financial company could transmit risk of instability to the financial system: (1) exposure; (2) asset liquidation; and (3) critical function or service. The Council then determined that Prudential’s material financial distress could pose a threat to financial stability focusing on two of the channels: exposure and asset liquidation, Woodall pointed out in his dissent last year.
Recently resigned FSOC member John Huff, the Missouri director of insurance, now replaced after two terms with Adam Hamm of North Dakota as a state insurance regulator, expressed several areas of concern with the FSOC’s still not-public basis of MetLife’s proposed designation, according to the FSOC minutes of the Sept. 4 meeting.
Huff also opposed the Prudential SIFI designation, and wrote a dissent, but he was, as are all state regulators, non-voting members of FSOC.
Treasury-led FSOC has 60 days from Nov. 3rd to make a final decision, although it could decide earlier — i.e.–before the end of the year.
FSOC’s website press release just calls the event a closed meeting to discuss a nonbank SIFI designations (plural, as another nonbank, perhaps a reinsurer, is in Stage 2 of analysis or therabouts) and a discussion of recent market activity.)
MetLife is already designated by the global financial supervisory authorities as a global systemically important insurer (G-SII.) The company has operations in Latin America, Asia, the EMEA countries.
MetLife reported second quarter 2014 operating earnings of $1.6 billion, unchanged from the second quarter of 2013. On a per share basis, operating earnings were $1.39, down 3% over the prior year quarter. Operating earnings in the Americas grew 5%. Operating earnings in Asia decreased 3% on a reported basis and in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) increased 37%.

NAIC changing of the guard at FSOC: Hamm in, Huff out

Sept. 18, 2014 — Adam Hamm, president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) and North Dakota insurance commissioner since 2007, has been appointed to a two-year term as the state insurance commissioner representative on the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC).
As a state insurance commissioner, Hamm is one of five non-voting members on the FSOC, which is composed of 10 voting members led by the Treasury secretary.
Hamm, a Republican, replaces Missouri Insurance Director John Huff, a Democrat, on the FSOC at a critical time for insurance stability oversight. Huff had served his two terms.

NAIC President Adam Hamm, courtesy NAIC website

NAIC President and ND Commissioner Adam Hamm, courtesy NAIC


FSOC is awaiting a response from MetLife on whether it will accept or appeal its proposed designation as a systemically important financial institution (SIFI.) FSOC proposed the designation Sept. 4 without disclosing the name of the company.
FSOC is also reviewing what appears to be another insurer or reinsurer, now in the Stage 2 process of SIFIhood. Stage 3 is the final analysis before the books are closed on a company.)
There is also partisan legislation pending in Congress seeking to forestall more proposed designations for a period of time, and to force the FSOC to be more forthcoming with information as well as to allow in to its closed meetings certain members of Congress.
Huff marked his tenure at FSOC publicly with his dissent in the FSOC’s designation of Prudential Financial as a SIFI and an open statement at an NAIC meeting that members of FSOC did not understand insurance.
Huff and the NAIC have been critical of FSOC In the past but it is unknown how Hamm will play the cards given to him as a non-voting member of the Council.
The NAIC in 2011 wrote to then-Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner that Huff was being stymied by the FSOC and Treasury in his attempts to tap the NAIC and the state insurance departments for additional staff support and that Huff had been prohibited from discussing or seeking guidance from relevant state regulators even on a confidential basis. The NAIC also complained that FSOC was limiting Huff’s role on the FSOC. See: http://www.naic.org/documents/testimony_letter_110209_fsoc_geithner.pdf

Huff argued a year ago this month that the basis for the Prudential decision lacked evidence, analysis and was speculative, and based on unlikely events. He said what the FSOC did do was merely show that Prudential was a large and complex institution, but that was all it showed. See: http://www.naic.org/documents/index_fsoc_130920_huff_dissent_prudential.pdf
Huff also criticized some of the statements and arguments in the majority or “basis” opinion as suggesting “a lack of appreciation of the operation of the state-based regulatory framework, particularly its resolution processes”
For instance, he demonstrated alarm that the FSOC majority reasoned that the authority of an insurance regulator to ring-fence the insurance legal entity could complicate resolution and could pose a threat to financial stability.
Huff argued that Ring-fencing is a powerful regulatory tool utilized by insurance regulators to protect policyholders and prevents the transfer of assets without regulatory approval.
It has been a great honor to serve on behalf of my fellow state insurance regulators on FSOC,” said Huff in a statement today. 
Hamm stated that he will assume his new role “with great respect for the work of Director Huff and I look forward to working with the other financial regulators as we take the next steps to promote a stable insurance marketplace and protect the broader financial sector.”

The FSOC was created by the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010 to monitor the safety and stability of the nation’s financial system, identify risks to the system, and coordinate a response to any threats.
Companies designated as SIFIs are subject to oversight on a consolidated basis by the Federal Reserve Board. For example, Prudential Financial is being regulated as an entity by the Boston Fed, although accompanying capital rules have yet to be developed and imposed. Home state regulator New Jersey still oversees the various insurance components and market conduct elements of Prudential, but must confer with the Fed.
Huff was appointed to FSOC in August 2010 by NAIC. His term began Sept, 15, 2010 and he was reappointed in 2012 for a second term which expired on Sept. 15, 2014.

Thank you,

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.

Late summer, fall harvest of non-bank SIFIs, G-SIRs (global reinsurers)?

SIR? G-SIR?
It should come as no surprise when MetLife receives a proposed systemically risky financial institution(SIFI) designation when the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) meets July 31 in a closed session –if the decision is ready, whether or not people agree with it.
At least one other institution in consideration for a nonbank SIFI designation will also be discussed at the scheduled meeting, it appears from the FSOC notice.
There was a nonbank SIFI in Stage 2 (out of 3 stages before a designation is proposed) in late March, which could be a reinsurer like the behemoth Berkshire Hathaway, or an asset manager, like BlackRock, which also early on (2011) argued against its sector’s consideration by the FSOC. Yet, because the FSOC minutes show that the deputy director for financial stability in the Federal Insurance Office (FIO) provided an update on the status of the ongoing analysis of this nonbank financial company in Stage 2, a insurer or reinsurer could be under the microscope–although it could be an asset manager that owns an annuity company. Berkshire is expected by some to be named, along with other global reinsurers, a global systemically important reinsurer (G-SIR) in November by the Financial Stability Board. (FSB.)
For its part, MetLife has been meeting with Federal Reserve Board officials for at least two years as they have noted in presentations and filings, regulators and lawmakers have requested input on capital adequacy frameworks for insurers as an alternative to the Basel framework prescribed under the US Basel III final rule. met has been under consideration as a SIFI in stage 3 analysis for more than a year by the FSOC, where it came under review when it divested its bank holding company status. As such, it has been very familiar with Federal Reserve oversight and the onus of stress tests. Insurance-applicable capital standards have yet to be developed. All SIFIs will be subject to Basel III, and insurers are hoping for some insurance-centric adaptation.
What will be interesting, once the MetLife decision is released, will be the rationale used for determining MetLife’s proposed SIFI-hood, and the language of the dissent or dissents which could follow.

If a run on the bank scenario is not used as the starting culprit in the FSOC analysis, MetLife would still have to be shown to cause systemic risk in a failure if it were a SIFI. Its global position and leveraging, and enormous third party asset management arm, MetLife Investment Management, could conceivably be argued to cause  any systemic risk problem more than the insurance operations. According to a snapshot profile, it it manages 12 accounts totaling an estimated $12.3 billion of assets under management with approximately 11 to 25 clients. It purchases commercial real estate. Asset managers are already being explored for their systemic risk. 

There is a strong and lively camp that resolutely believes insurers are just not systemically risky. There are bills in the House, two approved by a panel, that would curtail FSOC’s SIFI designation process pending a review, allow certain members Congress and other agency officials to sit in on closed meetings,  and new efforts  this week to reform FSOC and the Office of Financial lResearch  introduced by U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., Rep. John Delaney, D-Md, Spencer Bachus, R-AL., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Az.,  and Patrick Murphy, D-Fla.,

“Dodd-Frank turned four this week,” Ross stated.  Unfortunately, it has become increasingly evident that aspects of the law are not working as promised. FSOC and OFR are agencies that were established to identify potential risks to our nation’s financial stability but they have been broadly criticized for their lack of transparency, flawed research, and inadequate designation process. …. In many cases, the SIFI designation can lead to a large cost increase for consumers.” Ross and fellow concerned House members  wrote a letter to Secretary  of the Treasury Jacob Lew in April detailing concerns with judging asset managers as risky and suggesting the need for specific ways in how they pose risk.

All of this concern, FSOC hand-wringing and legislation will come too late for MetLife, at least.

The rationale used for the case to create Prudential Financial’s SIFI designation was pummeled by many, including the insurance contingent on the FSOC, excepting Treasury official and FIO Director Michael McRaith, a nonvoting member. The run-on-the-bank scenario was held as improbable, and FSOC insurance expertise member Roy Woodall also worried about how the insurer could possibly ever exit from SIFI-hood under the scenario offered. FSOC began its examination from an assumption that Prudential was in distress from a run on the bank.  Woodall dissented on Prudential’s SIFI designation, but not on AIG‘s.

“The Basis does not establish that any individual counterparty would be materially impaired because of losses resulting from exposure to Prudential. Instead, the Basis relies on broader market effects and aggregates the relatively small individual exposures to conclude that exposures across multiple markets and financial products are significant enough that material financial distress at Prudential could contribute to a material impairment in the functioning of key financial markets,” Woodall stated in his dissent.

Treasury officials were concerned about Prudential’s extensive derivatives portfolio and activities for hedging and otherwise.

The majority FSOC rationale offered for MetLife is likely to be a bit different, but invite still find criticism.
Prudential was officially designated by the FSOC on Sept. 19, 2013 after an appeal failed, and as such is subject to enhanced supervision by the FRB pursuant to Dodd-Frank.
Prudential states outright in its resolution plan filed with the Fed “the failure of the Company would not have serious adverse effects on the financial stability of the United States.”
Prudential is also subject to regulation as an insurance holding company in the states where Prudential’s U.S. insurance company material legal entities are domiciled, which currently include New Jersey, Arizona and Connecticut.
There are no capital or enhanced standards or Basel 3 adaptations worked out yet for Prudential, which is being overseen by the Boston Fed. The company says it will continue to work with the regulators to develop policies and standards that are appropriate for the insurance industry.
Its first order of business was filing a resolution plan, which it did just before the July 1 deadline. AIG also had to do one, and MetLife will have to do one as well.
The Resolution Plan describes potential sales and dispositions of material assets, business lines, and legal entities, and/or the run-off of certain businesses that could occur, as necessary, during the hypothetical resolution scenario.
Pru’s resolution plan describes potential asset or business sales that could occur during this hypothetical resolution of Prudential and its material legal entities as the result of the hypothetical stress event.
Prudential says that Under the hypothetical resolution scenario, each of Prudential Financial, Prudential Asset Management Holding Co., the holding company of Prudential’s asset management business, and (Prudential Global Funding (PGF, its central derivatives conduit) would voluntarily commence a bankruptcy proceeding under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code in the applicable federal court.
Once the Chapter 11 proceeding began, PFI and PAMHC would likely sell certain businesses and reorganize around the businesses each elects to retain.
PGF, Prudential’s central derivatives conduit, would quickly liquidate what limited assets would remain and settle any other liabilities following the termination and closing out of its derivatives positions, Pru’s resolution plan states.
Under the hypothetical resolution scenario, each of the primary insurance regulators for the insurance subsidiaries would file uncontested orders to start rehabilitation proceedings against the relevant insurer material legal entities in their respective states of domicile.
MetLife, which has more extensive global businesses than Prudential, which concentrates its overseas business in Japan, would have to include these in a resolution plan.
MetLife would have 30 days to request a hearing, which then must happen in another 30 days, once it is notified of FSOC’s initial decision. Without a request, a final determination is made by FSOC within 10 days.