Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2014

Keywords

systemic risk, insurance industry, financial crisis, Dodd-Frank Act, Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, regulation, Federal Insurance Office, FIO, financial markets

Abstract

As exemplified by the dramatic failure of AIG, insurance companies and their affiliates played a central role in the 2008 global financial crisis. It is therefore not surprising that the Dodd-Frank Act—the United States’ primary legislative re-sponse to the crisis—contained an entire title dedicated to insurance regulation, which has traditionally been the responsibility of individual states. The most important insurance-focused reforms in Dodd-Frank empower the Federal Reserve Bank to impose an additional layer of regulatory scrutiny on top of state insurance regulation for a small number of “systemically important” nonbank financial com-panies, such as AIG. This Article argues, however, that in focusing on the risk that an individual insurance-focused, nonbank financial company could become sys-temically significant, Dodd-Frank largely overlooked a second, and equally important, potential source of systemic risk in insurance: the prospect that correlations among individual insurance companies could contribute to or cause widespread financial instability. In fact, this Article argues that there are often substantial correlations among individual insurance companies with respect to both their interconnections with the larger financial system and their vulnerabilities to failure. As a result, the insurance industry as a whole can pose systemic risks that regulation should attempt to identify and manage. Traditional state-based insurance regulation, this Article contends, is poorly adapted to accomplishing this given the mismatch between state boundaries and systemic risks, as well as states’ limited oversight of noninsurance financial markets. As such, this Article suggests enhancing the power of the Federal Insurance Office—a federal entity primarily charged with monitoring the insurance industry—to supplement or preempt state law when states have failed to satisfactorily address gaps or defi-ciencies in insurance regulation that could contribute to systemic risk.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Risk management, Administrative law, Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Federal Insurance Office, Insurance companies, Financial crises, Money market, Risk assessment, United States

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