Merkley Amendment Stops Foreign Companies from Dodging State Insurance Regulations

WASHINGTON, D.C. – United States Senator Jeff Merkley introduced an amendment today that will improve the Office of National Insurance (ONI) provisions of the Wall Street reform bill to ensure that U.S. and foreign insurers are operating on a level playing field internationally without unintentionally weakening state insurance regulation.  

“As we increase accountability on Wall Street, we have to be careful not to step on the rights of states to maintain strong insurance regulation,” Merkley said.  “This amendment safeguards insurance solvency and allows for international agreements while protecting consumers and American businesses.”

Specifically, Senator Merkley’s amendment would:

•    Permit the ONI to participate in international talks on insurance regulation, including on solvency standards, while ensuring that the ONI could not enter into agreements that weaken state insurance regulation. 

•    Clarify that the ONI would be empowered to preempt state laws to allow non-U.S. insurers to operate in U.S. markets only if a state law directly discriminated against non-U.S. insurers and ONI had entered into an agreement recognizing that the standard under which the non-U.S. insurer was regulated in their home jurisdiction meets the goals of the U.S. standard in question.

•    Clarify that only agreements entered into after the passage of the financial reform bill could become the basis for preemption, ensuring that previously signed deregulatory pacts do not have preemptive power.

•    Require consultation with Congress, the state insurance commissioners, and the public.  Also provides the states the ability to challenge the merits of ONI preemption determinations in U.S. court.

Senator Merkley’s amendment is supported by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Public Citizen, PIRG, Consumer Watchdog, and others.