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Bill would repeal Dodd-Frank, insurer designations as systemically important

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The chairman of the House Financial Services Committee wants to strip the Financial Stability Oversight Council's authority to designate insurers and others as systemically important financial institutions as well as rescind any existing designations.

In remarks prepared for an address to the Economic Club of New York Tuesday, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, outlined details of the Financial CHOICE Act – a Republican plan to replace the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. CHOICE stands for Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers and Entrepreneurs.

Rep. Hensarling took aim at FSOC, which has the power to designate financial institutions as SIFIs and subject them to heightened capital requirements and reporting rules.

Two insurers — American International Group Inc. and Prudential Financial Inc. — have been designated as SIFIs. A third insurer — MetLife Inc. — successfully challenged its SIFI designation in U.S. District Court, but the federal government is appealing.

“Much criticism has centered on FSOC's lack of transparency,” Rep. Hensarling said in his prepared remarks. “But more troubling is its vast powers under a vague mandate. Dodd-Frank gives FSOC the ability to designate companies as too big to fail if it 'determines that material financial distress' at the company 'could pose a threat to the financial stability of the United States.' But nowhere in Dodd-Frank, or anywhere else in the U.S. Code for that matter, are these terms defined.”

To end “taxpayer-funded bailouts” of financial institutions, “we must also end Washington's ability to designate any institution as 'systemically important,' ” Rep. Hensarling said. “It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Our Republican reform plan repeals FSOC's authority to designate so-called SIFIs going forward and retroactively repeals FSOC's previous SIFI designations.”

Presumptive Republican presidential standard-bearer Donald Trump has called for repealing Dodd-Frank while presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has vowed to veto any Republican attempts to “weaken” or repeal Dodd-Frank.