Federal Charter Off Docket in 112th Congress

By Sean P. Carr, Washington Bureau Manager
A.M. Best Company
April 01, 2011


Optional federal charter legislation will not come to a vote in the current Congress, according to the chairwoman of the U.S. House subcommittee that oversees insurance issues.

An OFC bill will not be an issue for the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity this term, said Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Ill. Consideration of a federal charter also does not appear on the full committee's oversight plan for the 112th Congress. The subcommittee's agenda is focused on reauthorizing and reforming the National Flood Insurance Program and Dodd-Frank oversight, she said.

"In terms of the insurance sector, our subcommittee is focused on monitoring the establishment of the Federal Insurance Office and the activities of Financial Stability Oversight Counsel, and working to ensure that our regulatory system promotes stability and U.S. economic competitiveness," Biggert said through a spokesman.

A sponsor of the National Insurance Consumer Protection Act in the last Congress, Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., still plans to introduce a bill at some point, spokeswoman Audra McGeorge said. Royce lost his primary Democratic partner when Melissa Bean of Illinois lost her re-election campaign. Royce subsequently lost a challenge for leadership of the full Financial Services Committee to Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala.

The Financial Services Committee will have its hands full with focusing on Dodd-Frank implementation and possible revisions, said Leigh Ann Pusey, president and chief executive officer of the American Insurance Association, a leading proponent of past OFC efforts. "I think that there is less appetite on the heels of such huge historic reform," she said.

Another strong OFC backer, the American Council of Life Insurers, is "reviewing the state of insurance regulation in the wake of Dodd-Frank with our members," spokesman Whit Cornman said. "In the near term, the ACLI's top priority is ensuring that the implementation of Dodd-Frank as it affects life insurers is appropriate to our industry and does not result in application of bank-centric regulatory concepts to life insurance companies," he said.

Allstate, which has long supported OFC movements, is holding out hope for consideration of a bill in 2012. A report due early that year on the efficacy of state insurance regulation, to be created by the Dodd-Frank-created Federal Insurance Office, could be the impetus, said William Vainisi, Allstate's vice president and deputy general counsel.

"You've got to get the debate started and see where it takes you," he said.
 

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