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Financial Stability Board to assess riskiness of insurers across G20

Companies singled out for scrutiny are required to hold extra capital to cover potential losses. The shift in the FSB's approach is from the US treasury department

Reuters  |  WASHINGTON 

regulators have decided to ditch a "too big to fail" gauge for assessing the riskiness of insurers, according to a source briefed on the matter, in a big win for companies such as American Group and Prudential Inc.

G20 Summit. Photo: PIB India
G20 Summit. Photo: PIB India

The Stability Board (FSB), which coordinates regulation across the Group of 20 Economies (G20), is expected to announce in coming weeks a switch in focus from insurers' size to their activities when deciding whether to subject them to increased regulatory scrutiny, said the source, who requested anonymity because the matter has not been made public.

Companies singled out for such scrutiny are required to hold extra capital to cover potential losses, increasing overall business costs and potentially reducing shareholder returns.

The insurance industry has been lobbying for years for regulators to move to the activities-based approach, arguing that their huge size should not automatically qualify them as systemically risky and on the hook for onerous bank-like capital rules.

The shift in the FSB's approach to designating globally systemically important insurers, or GSIIs, follows pressure from the US Treasury Department, which has been pushing the to ease up on and asset managers, the source said.

A spokesman for the declined to comment.

The administration of President Donald Trump has pledged to overhaul regulations introduced following the 2007-2009 crisis and put US interests first when engaging in bodies such as the and the Basel Committee of banking supervisors.

In September, a group of U.S. regulators - known as the Stability Oversight Council - removed from its domestic list of systemically important insurers, raising questions over whether the would keep on its list and continue to add new firms.

In a policy report published last month, the U.S. Treasury rejected the idea of singling out specific asset management and insurance firms as systemically risky and criticized the for mission-creep and a lack of transparency.

The U.S. Treasury is shortly due to release a policy report on the FSOC designation process and powers, which critics including regulatory experts and have said are too opaque and unaccountable.

BAILOUT

helped spark the crisis, and the labelling of major institutions as systemically important stems largely from its $182 billion US government-led rescue in September 2008. The bailout came just before the company would have been forced to file for bankruptcy protection amid mounting losses on its derivatives book.

Worried the insurance giant was "too big to fail," the government stepped in to prevent further chaos to the system. The company ultimately repaid taxpayers in full by the end of 2012, with a profit of $22.7 billion, according to

Since then, regulators have primarily focused on the size of a company's overall assets when assessing the risk they pose to the system.

Moving to an activities-based approach could see firms on the list that largely engage in traditional insurance activities removed, but other non-designated that use their cash to invest in risky assets, or which deploy high levels of leverage, added.

The suspension of the 2017 review means the 2016 list of nine GSIIs - which also includes MetLife Inc, Allianz SE and Ping An Insurance Group Co of China Ltd - will continue to stand for at least the next 12 months until the has completed an assessment based on the new methodology, the source said.

First Published: Sat, November 11 2017. 10:21 IST
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