WASHINGTON The Financial Stability Oversight Council finalized a handful of changes to its process for subjecting giant nonbanks to a new enhanced supervision regime.
In a Feb. 4 executive session held by telephone, FSOC voted to approve a guidance document supplementing its 2012 rules on the nonbank designation process. Under the Dodd-Frank Act, the council evaluates financial companies for designation as a "systemically important financial institution," which subjects them to heightened Federal Reserve board standards. The new guidelines aim to provide more disclosure about the designation process and improve engagement with firms under consideration for the SIFI label.
"The changes adopted today represent an important step for the Council that will increase the transparency of our designations process and strengthen the Council overall," said Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who chairs the council. "[FSOC] is a young organization that, as it grows and matures, must continue to be flexible and adjust its processes as needed to fulfill its mandate."
The nonbank SIFI designation process has been the source of considerable controversy since before insurance giant MetLife which was labeled a SIFI in December protested its designation during the review and more recently filed federal suit to challenge the decision.
Critics have said the process is confusing and opaque for the public while offering companies little meaningful opportunity to contest the council's findings. In response to a public outcry, the council has been exploring revisions to its process since the fall.
FSOC organized the changes into three broad categories: greater participation of companies in the review process, more public transparency and more meaningful annual reviews of companies already designated.
Under the new guidance, companies will be notified when they are in active "stage 2" review, meaning they have exceeded certain metrics of systemic risk and are being evaluated as to the extent of that risk. Companies will also have more opportunities to address specific FSOC concerns and provide relevant data for council staff to include in their reviews.
The new guidelines also stipulate that the public will have more information on why certain companies are designated and have more information about the systemic metrics used in the "stage 1" portion of the review. Companies already designated may also meet with FSOC staff and present new information pertaining to their SIFI status under the revised process.
The guidelines are mostly in line with the proposed changes that the council outlined in its last open session on Jan. 18. Yet the final changes do offer some additional details. For example, while the FSOC said it intends to honor any timely request from a firm for an oral hearing on a proposed designation, the council still retains "sole discretion" in deciding whether to approve a hearing. The guidelines also grant already-designated companies "an opportunity for an oral hearing before the council once every five years."
And although the council said it will provide greater public disclosure about what activities a company is involved in that makes it systemically risky, the guidelines say the FSOC will balance the specific level of disclosure with concerns about not disclosing confidential information provided by the company during the review.
The FSOC said it will continue to review its nonbank SIFI designation process for additional changes "that would promote active engagement with companies under consideration for a determination and transparency to the public."