A few decades ago the Rolling Stones famously sang: “You can’t always get what you want; but if you try sometime, you might find, you get what you need.”
There is, to be sure, a subtle but significant difference between need and want, a nuance that the American Council of Life Insurers failed to detect recently about a project it was aggressively pushing.
The ACLI’s failure to convey its need for capital and surplus relief in a way that made state commissioners feel a sense of urgency led to a stinging vote rejecting a fast-tracked capital relief proposal before the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
Instead, what those in the peanut gallery (and apparently at the commissioners’ table too, given the stunning 16-1 final vote to approve the proposal), took away during a special Jan. 27 hearing in Washington was a stream of words from the ACLI, but not one that was based on dire necessity.
The peanut gallery, incidentally, can’t speak about many of the words used before the hearing because those conversations between the ACLI and regulators were largely kept behind closed doors.
Technical jargon such as “ultraconservative capital and reserve numbers” does not strike home like specifics such as ‘there is a major company that will go under in 2 months if you don’t give us this lifeline.’
The news for the past 5 months has been peppered with real instances of “emergency,” names that do conjure up financial peril: AIG, Lehman, and Merrill Lynch, to name a few.
So, the words offered by the ACLI landed with a tone-deaf thud. Tone-deaf because the ACLI failed to pick up on the real fear that average Americans are experiencing. Or perhaps it did pick up on it and thought that this would be a good opportunity to light a fire under commissioners to satisfy a want.