If the European Union isn't regulating, it isn't happy.
Stymied by fear and common sense, the EU seems likely to drop the most odious aspects of its proposed new rules on hedge funds and private equity firms. But the Europeans have simultaneously struck upon the only thing more likely to drive hedge funds out of Europe than strict oversight: draconian pay restrictions. And now it's turned its sights on the insurance industry.
The president of the European Central Bank today backed plans to place new encumbrances on the continent's economy by regulating big insurers the same way it regulates banks. After all, can't those insurers be just as "systemically relevant," á la AIG?
Pension funds, too. They have a whole lot of money. The idea that they can't be sources of systemic risk "needs to be challenged" as well, Jean-Claude Trichet says.
New EU regulations governing the insurance industry, which could impose greater capital requirement and increase oversight, are set to be imposed in 2012.
Trichet backed the tougher rules for insurers despite his own admission that assessing the stability of the continent's financial institutions is "particularly complex" right now, "due to the unprecedented programs of official support for the financial system." Which makes now the perfect time to act.
Trichet Calls for Tighter Insurer Regulation [WSJ]
ECB's Trichet-hard to judge financial stability [Reuters]