General Electric wants to be removed from the federal government’s list of too-big-to-fail financial institutions, arguing that it’s no longer a major player in the financial services industry.
If the company’s request to the Financial Stability Oversight Council is granted, GE would not have to hold as much capital against financial losses and would face significantly less federal regulation.
The request comes one day after a federal judge ruled that MetLife should no longer be considered a threat to the financial system and should be removed from the list of too-big-to-fail institutions.
While financial services once accounted for more than half of GE’s profits, the company has been taking steps to exit the business, The Wall Street Journal reported:
“GE has narrowed its focus to high-tech industrial products like jet engines, power turbines, locomotives and medical scanners. That has meant jettisoning the lending businesses to buyers from the U.S. and elsewhere. GE unloaded more than $30 billion in real estate, including office buildings and hunks of debt, to Blackstone Group and Wells Fargo & Co.”
In the process, GE Capital says its assets have been reduced to $265 billion from $549 billion and that it has substantially reduced its use of short-term financing.
“Our plan to change our business model, shrink the Company and reduce our risk profile has been successful,” said GE Capital Chairman and CEO Keith Sherin.
“The filing demonstrates that GE Capital has substantially reduced its risk profile and is significantly less interconnected to the financial system, and therefore does not pose any conceivable threat to U.S. financial stability,” the company said in a statement.
GE Capital and MetLife are two of four nonbank institutions designated by the government as “systemically important financial institutions,” along with American International Group and Prudential Financial. Being on the list substantially increases federal oversight of the institutions.
On Wednesday, MetLife won a big victory when U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer ruled that its inclusion on the too-big-to-fail list was arbitrary and capricious. The ruling punched a hole in the regulatory superstructure set up since the financial crisis to prevent another meltdown.
GE’s decision to ask to be removed from the too-big-to-fail list has been planned for months and was not a response to Wednesday’s ruling, the company says.
The Obama administration criticized the MetLife ruling and indicated it could appeal.
Update at 1:15 p.m. ET: Treasury Department Responds
The Financial Stability Oversight Council’s ability to designate financial companies as “too big to fail” is “a critical tool to address potential threats to financial stability,” the Treasury Department said.
“The Council welcomes the opportunity to evaluate developments at any designated nonbank financial company and their potential effect on financial stability. As Secretary (Jacob) Lew has stated, there is a clear process for de-designation. Each year the Council carefully reexamines each of its previous designations, invites each company to meet in person with Council staff, and evaluates whether any changes at the company, or in its regulation or markets, justify a rescission of the designation.”
The statement went on to say some of the biggest and riskiest nonbank financial companies were not subject to adequate oversight before the financial crisis:
“Congress passed Wall Street Reform and created the Council to make the system safer and stronger by closing those regulatory gaps and fostering accountability for the stability of the financial system as a whole. The Council will continue to act within its authority to protect the U.S. economy.”