Thu, Jul 11, 2013 - Page 15 News List

US regulators name AIG, GE Capital potential risks

AP, WASHINGTON

US regulators have labeled insurer American International Group Inc (AIG) and General Electric Co’s (GE) finance arms as potential threats to the US financial system, designations that bring stricter government oversight.

The US Financial Stability Oversight Council on Tuesday announced the two companies would be the first to be designated “systemically important.” As a result, they must increase their cushion against losses, limit their use of borrowed money and submit to inspections by examiners. They will be under the supervision of the US Federal Reserve.

The companies did not challenge the designation. A third company, which was not named but appears to be Prudential Financial Inc, was granted a hearing on its proposed designation.

AIG received a US$182 billion taxpayer-funded bailout during the 2008 financial crisis, the largest for a single company. It has since repaid the bailout.

The government guaranteed up to US$139 billion of GE Capital’s debt during the crisis. GE Capital issued about US$51 billion in long-term debt and around US$17 billion in short-term debt with US government backing. The company issues a broad range of loans for consumers and companies.

It had struggled during the financial crisis due to mounting defaults and losses on loans in areas like credit cards, commercial real estate, heavy equipment and home mortgages overseas.

Members of the council, a group of top regulators, include US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and US Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew.

Nonbank financial firms include insurers, hedge funds, mutual fund companies and private equity firms.

“Today the council has taken a decisive step to address threats to US financial stability and create a safer and more resilient financial system,” Lew said in a statement.

He said the group will continue to review companies for possible designation as systemically important.

It was the most significant step yet by the council, which was created by the 2010 financial overhaul law to help prevent another financial meltdown.

In order to make the designations final, the council had to vote a second time on each company, with at least two-thirds of the 10 voting members agreeing. Lew, the council’s chairman, had to be among the two-thirds. New York-based AIG said in a statement that it “did not contest this designation and welcomes it.”

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