The Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS), National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), and the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) this week sent a letter (attached) to U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, supporting the idea of a systemic risk council, similar to the one proposed in Senator Collins’ The Financial System Stabilization and Reform Act (FSSRA) of 2009.

The letter stated, “After analyzing a number of strategies, we have concluded that the responsibility of identifying and managing systemic risk should not be assigned to a single agency but should be carried out by a council made up of state and federal regulators. We believe this approach holds the greatest promise of success in evaluating and controlling systemic risk in the marketplace because it will formalize regulatory cooperation and communication among state and federal regulators that oversee our financially intertwined markets.”

Senator Collins’ legislation would create a Financial Stability Council (FSC) to serve as a “systemic-risk regulator,” to maintain comprehensive oversight of potential systemic risks to the financial system. It would have the ability to propose changes to regulatory policy, working with existing federal regulatory agencies, when systemic risk could emerge due to regulatory gaps or risky new financial products. The FSC would also have the authority to close regulatory “black holes” that pose a systemic risk when risky products or activities fall outside the current authority of federal financial regulators. The FSC would also have the authority to adopt rules for financial institutions, such as imposing different capital requirements, raising risk premiums, or requiring these institutions to hold a larger percentage of their debt as long-term debt.

Earlier this month, NAIC President Roger Sevigny wrote in a separate letter, “We believe your bill’s approach to monitoring and mitigating systemic risk through a Financial Stability Council (FSC) of regulatory agencies is consistent with the core principles for systemic risk regulation, as it relates to insurance, which the NAIC has developed and believes must be incorporated into any comprehensive systemic risk system.”

“As a former Maine financial regulator, I am convinced that financial regulatory reform is essential to restoring public confidence in our financial markets and to preventing a recurrence of a crisis like this one,” said Senator Collins. “America’s Main Street small businesses, homeowners, employees, savers, and investors deserve the protection of an effective, new regulatory system that modernizes regulatory agencies, sets safety and soundness requirements for financial institutions to prevent excessive risk-taking, and improves oversight, accountability, and transparency.”

Additional provisions of Senator Collins’ bill include:

• Closing the credit default swaps loophole to ensure oversight of a financial instrument that contributed heavily to the current financial crisis and the downfall of AIG. This regulatory gap allowed systemic risk to build in our financial system without the oversight and transparency needed to prevent a collapse;

• Imposing safety and soundness requirements on new investment banks. Under the current system, investment bank firms such as Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers were left unregulated with no agency given the authority to examine the full scope of their operations;

• Merging the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) to consolidate and reduce the number of banking regulators, improving the effectiveness of the entire system. This merger has been recommended by many experts, and the Treasury Inspector General recently raised concerns about the objectivity and effectiveness of OTS;

• Protecting the right of states to regulate the insurance industry.