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Experts mull single E.U. Regulator concept


BRUSSELS, Belgium— The prospect of a single European financial regulator has not been ruled out if national insurance supervisors can not agree on how Europe's planned new capital adequacy regime Solovency II regime should be implemented.

The vast majority of Europe's insurance companies and supervisors would strongly oppose the creation of a central supervisor to oversee Solvency II.

On Monday, John Tiner, outgoing chief executive of the U.K. Financial Services Authority warned against the idea in a farewell speech in London.

He said that Europe needs a strong lead supervisor system whereby groups that operate in more than one country are regulated mainly by their home state supervisor thus obviating the need for detailed supervision in all member states in which it is active.

"I have heard that the idea of a single E.U. regulator for the largest firms is gaining currency among both the major firms themselves and the political establishment. I should say very clearly that I do not think this is the answer," said Mr. Tiner.

"Apart from questions of cost, location, regulatory style and so on, there will be intractable negotiations about whether there should be an integrated regulator like the FSA or sector based regulators as they have in France, Spain, Italy and some other member states.

"I believe that Europe must be pragmatic in promoting the growth of the single market and fostering the competitiveness of our major companies and should not become distracted by theoretical, bureaucratic and perhaps partisan discussions about the institutional framework.

To me the answer lies in the intelligent — not simplistic — adoption of the so called "Hard Lead Regulator" approach," he continued.

But Peter Skinner, Member of European Parliament and Rapporteur for the Solvency II project, the man responsible for guiding it through parliament, said that a single regulator could not be ruled out.

He and other speakers at a press briefing on Solvency II organized by the Comite Europeen des Assurances in Brussels, Belgium yesterday said they would prefer the lead supervisor approach but Mr. Skinner conceded that the so-called "28th regime" may be necessary.

"The Parliament is very interested in the 28th regime and sees this as a possibility to overcome potential intransigence," said Mr. Skinner.

"You cannot rule out supervision at the European Union level if we can not get what is required," he continued.