In the face of continuing media and consumer confusion regarding American International Group, Inc. (AIG) and the role of state insurance regulators, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has moved to correct the misinformation and in a published statement urges caution and a close examination of the facts.
The following news release was published by the NAIC on March 19, 2009 (underlines for emphasis)
“In uncertain times, making correctly informed financial decisions is more important than ever,” said NAIC Chief Executive Therese M. (Terri) Vaughan, Ph.D. “This is especially true for AIG’s policyholders, where unsubstantiated information and misstatements in the media have led to unnecessary consumer frustration and fear.”
First and foremost, AIG is typically described as the world’s largest insurance company. In fact, it is a global financial services conglomerate that does business in 130 countries. AIG owns 176 other companies, in addition to 71 U.S. state-regulated insurance subsidiaries.
“State insurance regulators have been actively involved in the AIG situation to help ensure that consumers remain protected,” Dr. Vaughan said. “Regardless of the failings at AIG’s holding-company level, its insurance subsidiaries have continued to fulfill their obligations to policyholders.”
These points were further underscored in testimony this week by Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Joel Ario at a Congressional hearing before the U.S. House Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance and Government Sponsored Enterprises.
“AIG’s insurance companies remain strong, in part because state regulation continues to wall them off from the high-risk activities engaged in by AIG Financial Products,” Ario said. “The insurance industry — just like the rest of the global economy — is facing challenges, but this only reinforces the need to be wary of changing a part of our regulatory system that has proven effective.”
Ario reiterated that AIG’s Financial Products operation — not its 71 U.S. insurance subsidiaries — created the systemic risk that caused the federal government to intercede. Additional action at the federal level, Ario stressed, should be collaborative, transparent and inclusive — and should integrate state-based insurance regulation into the framework for managing systemic risk.
“State insurance regulators recognize that federal action is needed to address systemic risk within the nation’s financial marketplace,” Ario said. “This shared objective calls for a collaborative approach .... that does not compromise one company within the enterprise for the benefit of another.”
Ario also addressed claims made by some of AIG’s competitors that the company was using federal assistance as an unfair competitive advantage.
“Regulators have devoted special attention to the current allegations, because AIG and its competitors may have distorted incentives to put their competitive engines into overdrive,” Ario said. “With the caveat that these issues are complex, we have not seen any clear evidence of under-pricing to date, though we continue to look at individual cases and at aggregate numbers on both renewals and new business at AIG
NAIC's AIG Consumer FAQ