WASHINGTON BUREAU — Sen. Christopher Dodd has unveiled a financial services bill that would give federal banking regulators the authority to oversee insurance companies, especially if the insurance companies pose a potential threat to the financial system.
The bill, similar to one Dodd, D-Conn., proposed in December 2009, also would create a federal Office of Insurance Information, and it includes surplus lines and reinsurance provisions.
The old Dodd draft included a financial intermediary “standard of care” provision, Section 913, that triggered a battle that put financial planners on one side and broker-dealers, including life insurance agents affiliated with broker-dealers, on the other side, by proposing that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission impose a “fiduciary standard” on all intermediaries who provide personalized investment advice.
The redrafted version of Section 913 simply requires the U.S. Securities and Exchange and Exchange Commission to study the issue.
The new bill would require insurers with assets of more than $50 billion to help pay into a fund that would be used to resolve troubled financial companies that the regulators believe pose a risk to the financial system.
But the Federal Reserve Board would have to get permission from two-thirds of the members of a Financial Stability Oversight Council to require a large, complex company, to divest some of its holdings if it appeared to pose a grave threat to the financial stability of the United States.
But divestment could be required “only as a last resort,” according to a summary of the bill released by Dodd.
The bill calls for increased regulation of executive compensation and governance of public companies, by providing shareholders with a say on pay and corporate affairs with a non-binding vote on executive compensation.
The bill would establish what Dodd described as “tough new rules for transparency and accountability” for credit rating agencies to protect investors and businesses.
The bill would give the Federal Reserve Board the authority to impose restrictions on proprietary trading and hedge fund and private equity investments by insurance companies and other nonbanks. The bill would require federal regulators to develop regulations “after a study by the Financial Stability Oversight Council and based on their recommendations.”
In another break with current law, the new FSOC would have the ability to require nonbank financial companies that pose a risk to the financial stability of the United States to submit to supervision by the Federal Reserve.