The producers and others who went to Washington earlier this month to support a bill that would define fixed indexed annuities as insurance products may have lined up about 15 new cosponsors in the House.
Blair O’Connor, legislative affairs committee chair at the National Association for Fixed Annuities, Milwaukee, and chairman of the new Independent Fixed Annuities Agents Council, Sterling Heights, Mich., is basing that figure partly on visit reports from FIA fly-in participants.
The fly-in attracted a total of about 100 participants.
Earlier, O’Connor had estimated fly-in participants had visited about 150 congressional offices.
Organizers later went over reports and discovered that participants actually visited 55 Senate offices and 170 House offices, O’Connor said.
At least 9 House members have now formally agreed to cosponsor H.R. 2733, the FIA classification bill. Reps. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., has introduced the bill together with Thomas Price, R-Ga.
In the Senate, where Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., is the primary sponsor of S. 1389, the H.R. 2733 companion bill, “I think we made a lot of good inroads,” O’Connor says.
FIA sellers and manufacturers have been lobbying for the bills in response to efforts by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to implement Rule 151A, a rule that would classify the products as securities.
The SEC argues that it should regulate FIA products as securities because, from the perspective of consumers, they appear to be similar to securities.
Fly-in participants argue that the products clearly are insurance products, with principal and minimum returns backed by insurance company general accounts. They also argue that defining FIA products as securities would drive up compliance costs and make the products unaffordable.
S. 1389 backers are still hoping to get a version of the bill into the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2009 bill. That bill was approved by the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee earlier this week, but Democrats are still working with Republicans to come up with a version that can attract the Republican votes needed to get the bill through the Senate.
“The more cosponsors we have, the better our chances,” O’Connor says.
O’Connor warns against expecting a sudden breakthrough.
“Politics is a slow business,” he says. “I look it as a series of incremental breakthroughs. Every time we go [to Washington], the people there know more about us.”
NAFA Executive Vice President Kim O’Brien says she was pleased with the fly-in turnout.
“We even had Idaho and Missouri,” O’Brien says.
Some key lawmakers come from those states, but finding agents from those states who can come to Washington is sometimes difficult, O’Brien says.
MEETING THE INSIDERS
Ben Nelson, the senator, spoke at a fly-in reception the evening before participants converged on Capitol Hill, and Meeks rallied participants at a fly-in breakfast meeting as the participants prepared to lobby.
Former Mississippi Insurance Commissioner George Dale, who is now a senior policy advisor in the Jackson, Miss., office of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz P.C., also spoke at the evening reception. He introduced Jane Cline of West Virginia, the current president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Kansas City, Mo.; Kevin McCarty of Florida; and Ann Frohman of Nebraska.
O’Connor urged fly-in participants to have an “unbelievable day.”