Treasury calls for looser federal oversight of insurance companies

Treasury calls for looser federal oversight of insurance companies
© Greg Nash

The Treasury Department on Thursday called for fundamental changes to the way federal agencies regulate insurance companies under the Dodd-Frank Act financial rules.

In a report released Thursday night, the department said regulators should move away from regulating insurance companies based on size, and instead focus on risky activities conducted by such firms. The move could require Congress to amend Dodd-Frank, which created strict rules meant to limit dangerous activity in banks and financial firms.

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“Treasury’s position is that entity-based systemic risk evaluations of insurance companies are generally not the best approach for mitigating risks arising from insurance,” the report reads, calling for more federal collaboration with state regulators.

“Instead, insurance regulators should focus on potential risks arising from insurance products and activities, and on implementing regulations that strengthen the insurance industry as a whole.”

Dodd-Frank subjects banks and certain financial firms with more than $50 billion in assets to tighter rules and closer federal scrutiny. Federal regulators analyze those firms, called “systemically important financial institutions,” (SIFI) to ensure their stability.

Several insurance companies faced tight federal scrutiny after some of their sprawling investment divisions contributed to the 2008 financial crisis. The Financial Stability Oversight Committee, an interagency group of regulators, recently released AIG from the enhanced rules after the firm scaled back their non-insurance activities. A federal court struck down Metlife’s SIFI designation last year, and Prudential is currently fighting theirs.