WASHINGTON BUREAU — A federal appeals court panel today required the U.S. Securities and Commission to reconsider a regulation that would have classified indexed annuities as securities — but it said the SEC can regulate the annuities as securities.
The 3-judge federal court panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit called indexed annuities “fixed indexed annuities,” or FIAs.
The panel held that the SEC was being reasonable when it said it had the authority to create a regulation, Rule 151A, that would classify an FIA as an “annuity contract” and put FIAs under SEC jurisdiction, because a Supreme Court precedent gives federal agencies the flexibility to interpret their own regulations.
The panel concluded, however, that the SEC had failed to properly consider the effect of the rule upon efficiency, competition, and capital formation.
“Accordingly, we remand the rule for reconsideration,” Chief Judge David Sentelle writes in an opinion for the court concerning the case, American Equity Investment Life Insurance Company et al., Petitioners, vs. Securities and Exchange Commission, No. 09-1021.
In a statement, the National Association of Fixed Annuities, Milwaukee, expressed disappointment about the decision, and it said it will now turn to Congress to ensure that indexed annuities remain state-regulated.
NAFA believes the ruling “leaves it open for the SEC to promulgate rules it deems necessary at any time in the future,” says NAFA Executive Director Kim O’Brien.
“This is why the NAFA sought a legislative repeal of Rule 151A,” O’Brien says. “The House-sponsored bill, H.R. 2733, and Senate-sponsored bill, S. 1389, are critical to [ensuring] that fixed indexed annuities are not subject to duplicative, bureaucratic, and not-necessarily efficient oversight by the SEC.”
The court decision makes it “more important than ever” that NAFA members support a “fly-in” to Washington, O’Brien says.
NAFA members who participate in the fly-in, set to take place July 29, will lobby their members of Congress to back legislation that can keep the SEC from asserting jurisdiction over indexed annuities, O’Brien says.
The SEC is “pleased that the court validated the Commission’s interpretation regarding equity indexed annuities, which would subject them to the important investor protections of the federal securities laws,” SEC spokesman Kevin Callahan says. “We will continue to consider the procedural issue identified in the opinion.”
When the SEC published the final version of Rule 151A in January, the agency said it would take effect Jan. 12, 2011. But, it added, FIAs issued before Jan. 12, 2011, would not be subject to additional legal responsibilities even after the new rule became effective.
The rule also addresses the manner in which a determination will be made regarding whether amounts payable by the insurance company under a contract are more likely than not to exceed the amounts guaranteed under the contract.