Saturday, November 17, 2012


Captives & Dodd-Frank -- Hitting the Right Target

The recent announcement of an industry coalition to push for federal legislation clarifying that the Nonadmitted and Reinsurance Reform Act (NRRA), included as part of the Dodd-Frank law, does not apply to captive insurance companies certainly sounds like a positive initiative.  But despite good intentions, this blog is skeptical that it will acheive the desired result.

We have actually been tracking this issue for some time and is aware of discussions that have taken place with key congressional sources regarding the viability of a possible legislative fix (two conversations as recent as yesterday).  The consensus is that it could be done technically, but DC politics dictate that such an effort would be a heavy lift.

The political reality is that neither Democrats nor Republicans have the appetite to open up the Dodd-Frank Law for any changes at this point. 

Truth be told, congressional Republicans don’t want to do anything to help the law actually work, as this was a highly partisan piece of legislation, much like the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  The only way Republicans would be motivated to even consider amending the legislation is if such action would substantively lessen the administrative burdens on the banking industry and provide certainty to the business community, especially small business.

 Democrats, for their part, will be resistant to “technical amendment” legislation even if they support it in principle for fear that it would become a legislative vehicle where additional amendments would be grafted on with the intent of watering down the law.

And neither party wants to come back under fire from the powerful financial services industry lobby, which would surely happen if Dodd-Frank is opened back up – even for so-called technical fixes.   

But just for the sake of argument, let’s assume that legislation is introduced and some co-sponsors are lined up.  Does that mean success is any more likely?  Probably not.  To understand this assessment, we need to talk about the relative political power of interest groups in DC. 

While many of the larger lobbying organizations active in DC have the ability to block and/or shape legislation, there are far fewer who have enough political juice to get their own special interest legislation passed through Congress, no matter how limited. To be blunt, the captive insurance industry simply does not fit into this latter, more exclusive group.   

Finally, the country’s biggest captive domiciles simply do not have powerful congressional delegations with regard to insurance-related issues, which could potentially offset the deficiencies and complications described above.  That is not to say these members of Congress would not be forceful advocates, they simply are not positioned to move legislation envisioned by proponents of this approach.

So does all this mean that there will never be clarity relative to whether the NRRA applies to captives?  Well, it may not to come from Congress for the reasons we just explained, but it may come from federal regulators as part of the Dodd-Frank rule-making process. 

In fact, this avenue is now being actively explored by self-insurance industry lobbyists.   This strategy can best be described as a “surgical strike,” as opposed to an expensive and pro-longed “land war,” which the congressional route would surely become. 

We’ll see if the political operatives now engaged with the regulators can hit the target.  But at least an arguably clearer path has been identified.

 

 

 

 

 

 

No comments:

Post a Comment