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U.S. regulators stick with existing policy for 'systemic' firms
September 22, 2017 / 9:31 PM / 19 days ago

U.S. regulators stick with existing policy for 'systemic' firms

(This version of the story originally published on 22 September corrects number of Obama appointees in seventh paragraph from four to five.)

A street sign for Wall Street is seen outside the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in Manhattan, New York City, U.S. December 28, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

By Pete Schroeder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A panel of U.S. regulators decided after meeting on Friday to stick with its existing policy for stricter rules on a handful of large financial institutions it deems “systemically important.”

The Financial Stability Oversight Council convened Friday to potentially remove the label of “systemically important financial institution (SIFI),” which carries with it heightened oversight and regulatory requirements from the Federal Reserve, from an unidentified nonbank. But in a statement released late Friday, the FSOC did not announce any change to existing policy.

Rather, the panel simply “discussed an ongoing annual reevaluation of its designation of a nonbank financial company.” The panel did not identify American International Group (AIG.N) by name, but sources familiar with the panel said regulators were debating easing regulations on that firm.

The whole concept of labeling major financial institutions as systemically important had its roots in AIG’s $182 billion government bailout.

AIG was rescued just before it would have been forced to file for bankruptcy protection in September 2008 as losses on risky derivatives mounted. It repaid taxpayers in full by the end of 2012.

Since the crisis, AIG has sold dozens of businesses, including two Asian life insurance operations and one of the world’s biggest aircraft leasing businesses. It recently sold a mortgage-insurance unit. It remains the largest commercial insurer in the United States and Canada.

But with a two-thirds majority on the ten-member FSOC required to remove a SIFI designation, and five appointees of President Barack Obama still holding seats, the regulatory panel did not move to remove that label Friday. The company originally became a SIFI in 2013.

The panel only once before has removed a SIFI designation, when it did so for GE Capital in 2016 after it drastically revamped its operations.

By law, all banks with over $50 billion in assets are automatically considered SIFIs, while the FSOC can apply the label to nonbanks on a case-by-case basis.

In addition to AIG, Prudential (PRU.N) is the only other nonbank “systemically important financial institution” currently. That company is also mounting an effort to receive similar regulatory relief from the council.

A third insurance company, Metlife(MET.N), had also received the SIFI label, but pursued a legal challenge against the decision. A federal court ruled in the company’s favor in 2016. That decision was appealed by the government under President Barack Obama, and remains pending in an appeals court.

Reporting by Pete Schroeder; editing by Diane Craft

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