Efforts are now underway to push legislation through the Senate on an expedited basis that would clarify that the Federal Reserve Board can apply insurance-based capital standards to the insurance portion of any insurance holding company it oversees.
The bill is S. 2270, “the Insurance Capital Standards Clarification Act of 2014.” It would revise Sec. 171 of the Dodd-Frank Act, the so-called “Collins Amendment.” The Fed says its lawyers interpret the Collins Amendment” to require the Federal Reserve to apply bank capital rules to insurance companies it supervises.
S. 2270 and the companion House bill, H.R. 4510, clarifies that the Fed can apply insurance-based capital standards to the insurance portion of the business, while still keeping banking capital standards for the banking portion of the business.
Leadership of the Senate Banking Committee decided today not to include the Collins Amendment in its TRIA-extension bill, opting instead to “hotline” S. 2270, which means that if no senator objects, the bill would sail through the Senate over the next couple of days under expedited procedures.
“Hotlining is a streamlined Senate procedure that allows non-controversial legislation to bypass the usual Senate-floor debate and voting process, instead moving it with the unanimous consent of the Senate,” says Ryan Schoen of Washington Analysis in an investment note.
“While the precise timing of Senate approval is unclear, we think the Collins fix could be quickly approved by the Senate in the coming days or weeks,” Schoen says.
It would impact insurers such as American International Group and Prudential Financial that have been designated as systemically important financial institutions (SIFI), and eventually MetLife, which is being evaluated as a potential SIFI, from bank-like capital regulation by the Fed, Schoen explains.
It would also impact insurers such as State Farm and USAA, which the Fed oversees as their consolidated regulator because they operate savings and loan holding companies. The Fed has never disclosed a list of insurers it oversees in this capacity.
The decision to hotline the measure is a significant victory for the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI). The ACLI took out a full-page advertisement in Roll Call May 28 that will be repeated in Politico June 4 highlighting the life insurance industry’s support for S. 2270 and the House companion legislation, H.R. 4510.
“This issue is vitally important to ACLI and its member companies,” the advertisements say.
Schoen says after Senate passage, the next questions are how and when the House will approve the bill.
“While we expect the House Financial Services Committee to unveil TRIA legislation with similar SIFI insurance language by the end of June, the aggressive Senate approach to approving the Collins bill increases the odds that the House could fast track the legislation as well,” Schoen says. H.R. 4510, the companion legislation in the House, “is expected to attract broad bipartisan from the House Financial Services Committee, including Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, Schoen says. He also says he remains “skeptical” that the Fed will try to force Congress to pass legislation to fix Dodd-Frank’s capital treatment of insurers by issuing a harsh, bank-like capital rule this year, despite market rumors.
“Instead, we expect that the current stand-off within the Fed between the General Counsel’s office, led by Scott Alvarez, and policy staff regarding the extent of flexibility available to craft non-bank-centric rules under Dodd-Frank will continue while Congress attempts to carve out insurers,’ Schoen says.