How Insurers Would Wind Down If Needed to Avoid Future Bailout

By and | July 3, 2014

American International Group Inc. and Prudential Financial Inc. told regulators they could divest units and halt policy sales to avoid taking a bailout in a future crisis.

AIG, the insurer that repaid a U.S. rescue in 2012, and Prudential, which didn’t take Treasury Department funds, submitted the wind-down plans for the first time, after being designated systemically risky by federal regulators last year. The public portions of the plans, released yesterday, are similar to those submitted by banks in their reliance on unit sales.

If the sale of assets is insufficient to stabilize AIG, the insurer’s main subsidiaries would eventually be liquidated under the supervision of state and national watchdogs, according to the company’s document.

“AIG believes that each resolution strategy is feasible and would not give rise to adverse effects on the financial stability of the United States,” the New York-based insurer said in the document.

A resolution plan from General Electric Co.’s finance unit, deemed systemically important last year, was also disclosed yesterday. Banks including Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. had proposals posted online that were similar to documents filed a year ago.

If the plans aren’t credible, regulators can ask for improvements or, if shortcomings persist, eventually force structural and portfolio changes at the firms. The biggest banks still haven’t received a response from regulators to the plans they filed last year.

‘Preferred Strategy’

AIG and Prudential said in the documents that some units could be wound down in Chapter 11 bankruptcies, while state- regulated insurance subsidiaries would be handled by those watchdogs. Spokesmen at AIG and Prudential declined to comment beyond the documents.

The “preferred strategy for resolution involves the reorganization of Prudential,” the insurer said. Prudential and its main asset manager “would likely sell certain businesses and reorganize around the businesses each elects to retain.”

Prudential, based in Newark, New Jersey, is the second- largest U.S. life insurer. No. 1 MetLife Inc. is in the final stage of consideration to be labeled systemically important, and therefore wasn’t required to submit a plan.

In its aim to prevent a repeat of the 2008 credit crisis, the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act required the most complex financial firms — banks and non-banks like AIG — to each plot its own demise. The companies must send annual “living wills” to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Federal Reserve that walk the agencies through a hypothetical liquidation that won’t damage the wider financial system or call for taxpayer intervention.

‘Orderly Runoff’

GE Capital said it would liquidate “using a combination of going-concern business platform sales, specific asset sales, and orderly runoff of assets.” Potential buyers include banks and private equity funds, according to the document.

AIG said in the filing that both the insurer and the financial system have become more stable since the company was bailed out in 2008 after losses on mortgage-related derivative bets. The company has simplified itself, in part by selling about $80 billion of assets such as Asian life insurers and a U.S. consumer lender. Those sales helped Chief Executive Officer Robert Benmosche repay the bailout.

AIG “has itself undertaken significant initiatives to reduce risk and focus on its core insurance businesses,” the company said in its plan.

–With assistance from Elizabeth Dexheimer and Zeke Faux in New York.

Topics USA Carriers Trends AIG

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