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Judge zaps designation that MetLife presents a systemic risk

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A federal judge on Wednesday overturned the Financial Stability Oversight Council's designation of MetLife Inc. as a systemically important financial institution.

In a brief order in the District of Columbia case, U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer did not spell out her reasons for ruling as she did.

The judge also gave the parties involved until April 6 to file a joint notice regarding whether any of her opinion in the case — which is currently sealed — should remain under seal.

“Today’s ruling validates MetLife’s decision to seek judicial review of our SIFI designation,” MetLife Chairman, President and CEO Steven A. Kandarian said in a statement. “From the beginning, MetLife has said that its business model does not pose a threat to the financial stability of the United States. This decision is a win for MetLife’s customers, employees and shareholders.”

Reacting to the ruling, the Washington-based American Council of Life Insurers applauded the judge’s decision.

“FSOC’s designation process is anything but transparent, and its decision to designate MetLife a SIFI certainly seemed to ignore the weight of the evidence MetLife and insurance experts presented,” Dirk Kempthorne, president and CEO of the Washington-based council, said in a statement. “Consequently, the court’s finding that the decision was arbitrary and capricious on multiple fronts was not surprising.”

MetLife is one of three insurers that were designated as SIFIs by FSOC. As such, MetLife, American International Group Inc. and Prudential Insurance Co. have been required to meet heightened reporting requirements by the Federal Reserve.

Earlier this year, AIG CEO Peter Hancock said the process cost AIG $100 million to $150 million to comply annually.

MetLife was the only one of the three insurers to challenge the designation in court.

Because the opinion is sealed, any impact that Judge Collyer's ruling may have on the other two insurers remains unclear.