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.