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Blogger: Rule 151A Is Dead

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A former insurance industry executive who has opposed U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission efforts to regulate indexed annuities says he thinks the SEC will drop those efforts.

Robert MacDonald, who retired from the post of chairman of Allianz Life of North America, Golden Valley, Minn., a unit of Allianz S.E., Munich, Germany, in 2003, and then ran an Allianz Life retirement income unit from 2006 to 2007, has blogged about the recent U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruling on American Equity Investment Life Insurance Company et al. vs. SEC.

A 3-judge panel ruled that the SEC does have the authority to interpret an ambiguous law and decide whether or not it can classify indexed annuities as securities. But the panel remanded the draft regulation in question, proposed Rule 151A, back to the SEC, contending that the SEC had failed to conduct an adequate analysis of the effects of the proposed rule.

“As with most Court of Appeals rulings this decision offers a metaphor of conflicting analysis rather than a clear ruling,” MacDonald writes in his blog entry. “This allows both sides of the issue to claim victory.”

But MacDonald says he believes the ruling “effectively kills” Rule 151A.

“I reach this conclusion because the SEC — with lots of bigger issues to deal with now, including its own survival — will not want expend the time or energy to reopen the battle over the ruling,” MacDonald writes.

In addition, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Washington, now requires broker-dealers to supervise all annuity sales by their registered representatives, and that makes implementing Rule 151A overkill, MacDonald writes.