Systemic Risk Panel to Show Lawmakers Why Some Insurers Are Too Big to Fail

By | June 17, 2015

U.S. regulators will disclose to lawmakers more than 1,400 pages of documents explaining why companies such as American International Group Inc. and MetLife Inc. are subject to tougher oversight.

The Financial Stability Oversight Council is providing the papers after Republicans complained the council is too secretive and hasn’t explained how companies that are labeled systemically important can escape the additional supervision. The documents cover the four nonbank financial companies that have been designated: AIG, MetLife, Prudential Financial Inc. and General Electric Co.’s finance arm, according to a letter last week from the Treasury Department.

They include “specific analyses of the potential risks” such as leverage, interconnectedness and size that the FSOC considered before making its rulings, the Treasury said. The council is led by Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew and includes Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. Lew is scheduled to testify Wednesday about the FSOC to the House Financial Services Committee.

Companies designated by the council are subjected to Fed oversight, which can include stricter capital and leverage rules. MetLife is appealing in a federal court and GE said when it announced a broad restructuring in April that it will apply to lose the systemically important label next year by selling off its financial units.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling
Rep. Jeb Hensarling

The Treasury letter is in response to one sent to Lew last month by Representative Jeb Hensarling, the House committee’s chairman, requesting non-public FSOC documents. Hensarling, a Texas Republican, and the heads of his panel’s five subcommittees, complained of “serious deficiencies” in how the FSOC decides which firms are systemically important. Such companies are often referred to as “too-big-to-fail,” though size is only one of the factors the council considers.

FSOC Process

Spokesmen for the Treasury and the House Financial Services Committee didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The FSOC has “provided substantial information to the public about its process,” according to the June 9 letter sent by Randall DeValk, the Treasury’s acting assistant secretary for legislative affairs.

The council in February agreed to tell companies sooner that it’s considering them for systemic-risk status. It also said it will increase communication with companies that have already been designated and are due for annual re-evaluation.

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