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Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act: Insurance Provisions

Baird Webel
Specialist in Financial Economics

In the aftermath of the recent financial crisis, broad financial regulatory reform legislation was advanced by the Obama Administration and by various Members of Congress. Ultimately Congress passed, and the President signed, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (P.L. 111-203). 

The Dodd-Frank Act largely responded to the financial crisis that peaked in September 2008, but other efforts at revising the state-based system of insurance regulation also pre-date this crisis. Members of Congress previously introduced both broad legislation to federalize insurance regulation along the lines of the regulation of the banking sector, as well as more narrowly tailored bills addressing specific perceived flaws in the state-based system. 

The financial crisis, particularly the role of insurance giant American International Group (AIG) and the smaller bond insurers, changed the tenor of the existing debate around insurance regulation, with increased emphasis on the systemic importance of some insurance companies. Although it could be argued that insurer involvement in the financial crisis suggested a need for full-scale federal regulation of insurance, the Dodd-Frank Act did not implement such a federal regulatory system for insurance. 

Title V of the Dodd-Frank Act addressed specifically insurance, with a subtitle creating a Federal Insurance Office (similar to language originally contained in H.R. 2609) and a subtitle streamlining the existing state regulation of surplus lines and reinsurance (similar to language originally contained in H.R. 2572/S. 1363). The Federal Insurance Office is to monitor all aspects of the insurance industry and coordinate and develop policy relating to international agreements. It also has limited authority to preempt state laws and regulations when these conflict with international agreements. The act harmonizes, and in some cases reduces, regulation and taxation of surplus lines insurance by vesting the "home state" of the insured with the sole authority to regulate and collect the taxes on a surplus lines transaction. For reinsurance transactions, the act vests the home state of the insurer purchasing the reinsurance with the authority over the transaction while vesting the home state of the reinsurer with the sole authority to regulate the solvency of the reinsurer. 

In addition to Title V's specific insurance provisions, various other parts of the act may affect insurers and the insurance industry, including provisions addressing systemic risk, consumer protection, investor protection, and securities regulation. 

This report explains how insurance markets were affected by the financial crisis and summarizes the provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act that pertain to insurance.

Date of Report: August 17, 2010
Number of Pages: 8
Order Number: R41372
Price: $19.95

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