The Federal Bureau of Investigation backed away Thursday from earlier statements suggesting that it was conducting a broad investigation of the insurance industry.[@@]

Meanwhile, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Kansas City, Mo., described its role in responding to FBI inquiries about the insurance industry as “routine.”

Earlier press reports quoted Chris Swecker, an FBI assistant director, as stating that the FBI had been working with the NAIC to conduct a broad investigation in response to probes launched by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. FBI spokesman Joe Paris now says Swecker was “widely misquoted.”

“We’re not investigating anyone,” Paris says.

But Paris says the FBI has been taking a “proactive look” at the insurance industry.

Paris says he can’t say whether the “proactive look” centers on the life industry, the property-casualty industry or both.

In recent weeks, Spitzer, a Democrat who is campaigning to become governor of New York, has reported having concerns about some reinsurance transactions involving American International Group Inc., New York, and other insurers and reinsurers.

State insurance regulators “have been tapped by the FBI to provide guidance in understanding the technical requirements for accounting and reporting of reinsurance transactions, including arrangements that limit a reinsurer’s risk of loss,” NAIC President Diane Koken says in a statement.

“We understand the FBI is seeking to determine whether the accounting practices recently identified represent an industry-wide concern,” Koken says. “Several states are currently pursuing a number of investigations in this area and have been reconsidering existing financial reporting standards since last December.”

The NAIC “routinely provides technical assistance to state and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as state and federal regulators in insurance-related investigations,” Koken says. “It is widely understood that investigations and examinations of insurer activity are treated as confidential.”