Six months ago, big insurance companies' refrain when it came to receiving capital injections from the Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) was "what about us?" For at least two of the half dozen insurers approved last week to receive the balance-sheet stabilizing investments, that's now changed to "thanks, but no thanks."
Allstate (ALL) today joined Ameriprise (AMP) in politely passing on the Treasury's offer of billions of dollars in TARP funds. CEO Thomas J. Wilson said the company's "strong capital and liquidity positions" made them unnecessary.
Last week, six insurers -- Hartford Financial (HIG), Lincoln National (LNC), Prudential (PRU) and Principal Financial (PFG) were the others -- received approval for as much as $22 billion from the government's bank bailout fund. Hartford Financial and Lincoln National accepted the investments, while Principal and Prudential said they'd consider whether to follow suit.
With banks scrambling to exit the program and the restrictions on executive pay and closer scrutiny that come along with it, it's little surprise that insurers that can afford to forgo participation would choose to do so. That's especially true since taking TARP investments means inviting a whole new set of regulators -- namely federal bank overseers like the Federal Reserve and the Office of Thrift Supervision -- to take a look at the insurers' operations.
As David Havens, a managing director at investment bank Hexagon Securities told Bloomberg News, "The financial institutions that took TARP feel they ended up dancing with the devil. With the banks' example to learn from, it was predictable that at least a few of the insurance companies approved for TARP would choose to sit this one out.
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