Five insurance trade groups have filed a petition asking California officials to review whether Stephen Poizner, the state insurance commissioner, has created “illegal underground regulations” concerning Iranian investments.
Poizner has compiled a list of 50 companies that are not based in Iran but, according to Poizner, are involved with Iran. He says that, starting tomorrow, he will not credit any investment in those blacklisted companies on an insurer’s balance sheet.
On Friday, companies will be required to return a form notifying the California Insurance Department whether they will or will not be investing in the 50 companies on the list.
If the California Office of Administrative Law approves the 17-page petition, it could make Poizner go back to counting the Iran-related investments and add the value of those investments to insurers’ capital and surplus totals.
The trade groups that filed the petition are the Association of California Insurance Companies, Sacramento, Calif.; the Association of California Life and Health Insurance Companies, Sacramento; the Personal Insurance Federation of California, Sacramento; the American Council of Life Insurers, Washington; and the American Insurance Association, Washington.
Poizner’s move to create the Iran-related investments regulation without going through a normal hearing process was “well-intentioned but misguided” and could establish a “perilous precedent,” the insurer groups say in a statement.
Poizner has no role in setting U.S. foreign policy, and, if the current policy stands, a future commissioner could restrict insurer investments in companies that engage in any practice that the future commissioner disagrees with or believes to be politically offensive, the groups say.
“The potential list is limited only by the imagination,” the groups say.
The groups wrote to Poizner Feb. 19, telling him that his actions would put insurers licensed in other domiciles “in direct conflict with their respective regulators.”
The groups asked Poizner how he had determined that he had jurisdiction “over non-domestic insurers’ statutory financial statements” and how he was coming up with criteria for companies on his “Iran-related investments” list.
Poizner has never identified the laws he has based his action on, and the California code does not give him “any apparent authority to regulate the content of financial statements,” the groups assert in their petition.
The groups call the issue “a matter of great importance” noting that “a company that files a false financial statement may lose its certificate of authority.”
Poizner says 460 insurers have agreed in writing to a moratorium on future investments in 50 that the California department says do business with the Iranian energy, nuclear and defense sectors.
Poizner, who is running in the California Republican primary for governor, says he will be releasing more information in the future about his “request for an investment moratorium.”
Poizner was not immediately available to comment on the insurer groups’ petition.