Is Berkshire Hathaway
not too big to fail?
According to a report from The Financial Times, the Bank of England has asked the US Treasury why Berkshire Hathaway’s reinsurance operations were left off a list of “too big to fail” institutions.
Berkshire’s reinsurance operations include Berkshire Hathaway Reinsurance and General Re.
Reinsurers provide insurance for insurance companies.
Berkshire also owns primary insurer GEICO, and in 2014 $US41.3 billion of Berkshire’s roughly $US195 billion in revenue came from insurance premiums earned, and the FT notes that 27% of Berkshire’s net earnings in 2014 came from underwriting and investment profits.
In his latest letter to shareholders, Berkshire CEO Warren Buffett wrote that the insurance industry, “has been the engine that has propelled our expansion since 1967.”
The FT notes that the Financial Stability Board has named 9 primary insurers including, MetLife, Prudential, and AIG “systemically important financial institutions,” or SIFIs, which potentially subjects these organisations to further regulation and capital requirements.
So far, no reinsurance companies have been added to this list.
Last week, General Electric announced it would spin off its financing arm and said it would seek to avoid being labelled a SIFI.