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The AIG Loophole and the Race to Finish FinReg

At the Huffington Post, Ryan Grim reports that Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Greg Meeks (D-N.Y.) are attempting to insert an insurer-friendly change into the conference committee’s version of financial regulatory reform. “The measure would exempt securities products created by insurance companies from regulation, leaving the job instead to state insurance commissioners,” Grim writes. “Insurance companies do a lucrative business in selling annuities that guarantee a return to investors but limit the upside and often come with exorbitant commissions and high surrender fees that make access to the money difficult in times of financial need.” (The relevant change is the second bullet point on this sheet.)

The change might undercut the regulation of financial products created by firms like AIG, no less potentially dangerous than ones created by a Wall Street bank or a hedge fund, and has consumer advocates spooked. And it is one of dozens of kinks to be worked out and issues to be considered today, tomorrow and Thursday, as the conference process races to the finish.

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the head of the committee, promised it will be over this week — despite the significant amount of work still left. Today, the conferees debate the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency, the auto dealer exemption and debit card fees. Later this week: the Volcker Rule, derivatives and dozens of other small changes. Addressing the convened conferees when they convened this afternoon, Frank said, “If we are not able to finish up by Thursday, then this bill will not be able to pass until the middle of July.” Obama plans to have the finalized version ready for a meeting of the G-20 in Toronto this weekend.

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