Iowa Joins States Granting Capital And Surplus Relief

BY JIM CONNOLLY
National Underwriter News
February 19, 2009


Iowa using permitted practice procedure, which allows for rules waivers, has approved 10 insurance companies for capital and surplus relief under a Feb. 3 bulletin it issued temporarily relaxing requirements for deferred tax assets.

The firms that applied for and were granted relief under the bulletin, according to Tom Alger, department spokesperson, include:

  • Aviva Life & Annuity, Des Moines

  • CUMIS Insurance Society, Waverly

  • Principal Life, Des Moines

  • Farm Bureau Mutual, West Des Moines

  • Farm Bureau Life, West Des Moines

  • CUNA Mutual Ins. Society, Waverly, Iowa

  • Midland National Life Ins. Co., Des Moines

  • Transamerica Life Ins. Co., Cedar Rapids, Iowa

  • North American Co. Life & Health Ins. Co. West Des Moines

  • ING Annuity & Life Ins. Co., Des Moines

    The bulletin issued by the Iowa insurance department changes the time horizon for realizing deferred tax assets from one to three years, or 15 percent rather than 10 percent of statutory capital and surplus.

    It requires a company to file a request for such treatment. The allowance in the bulletin runs from Dec. 31, 2008 through Dec. 15 of this year. For the full text of the bulletin see http://www.iid.state.ia.us/docs/bull0901.pdf.

    Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Joel Ario said that as of Feb. 18, the Pennsylvania department has not received any requests for capital and surplus relief using permitted practices.

    Mr. Ario said that the use of permitted practices is not a reversal of the Jan. 29 vote by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners NAIC against a proposal by life insurers to grant capital and surplus relief to companies.

    "Everyone realizes that this is an unusual year," and there will be greater use of permitted practices than is usual, he commented.

    Mr. Ario said that after the NAIC voted 16-1 on Jan. 29 not to approve a scheme for capital and surplus relief advanced by life insurers, he received a general call from an industry representative asking how his department would handle the issue.

    He said that he responded that companies could approach the department and their requests would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. In any given year, individual companies in any line of business can approach the department if there are unique situations, he added.

    The most common reason for the use of a permitted practice rule to grant an exemption would be a rating downgrade of a company that was generally in good shape but needed specific relief with a financial filing requirement, Mr. Ario said.

    When asked whether states' use of permitted practices rules could create a lack of uniformity, Mr. Ario replied, "It could but I hope it doesn't."

    He explained that insurance commissioners want "things to be as uniform as possible regarding practices and in particular, accounting practices." However, he also noted that "any good system allows for unique circumstances." There is a balance that needs to be reached between flexibility and uniformity and "at what point does flexibility erode uniformity."

    Commissioners usually accept the decision of a domiciliary commissioner, although they do not have to, Mr. Ario explained.

    On the issue of transparency, Mr. Ario said that while companies can come to a commissioner and request confidentiality, there is transparency in financial statements where the exception granted is noted.

    He said that it is his understanding that in several cases, financial filings will be delayed by a week or two for certain companies receiving relief under permitted practices.

    Use of permitted practices, he said, is a balance for commissioners who can be "second guessed." If the practices are not used and a company goes under, then there is the risk of criticism and if the practices are granted and a company is seized anyway, the question is raised about why the company wasn't taken into rehabilitation sooner, Mr. Ario added.

    Other states have also used permitted practices rules to offer temporary relief to companies including Connecticut for Hartford Financial, and Indiana for Lincoln. The Ohio department confirmed 20 companies who will receive capital relief under bulletins that the department issued earlier this month.

    The New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance said that there are no plans to use permitted practices rules to offer domiciled companies capital and surplus relief. A spokesperson for Prudential Financial, Newark, N.J., declined to comment on whether the company had requested such relief.

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