Ace Ltd. (ACE:US) Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Evan Greenberg said regulators in the U.S. and Europe are stymieing private-sector growth as he expands the Swiss insurer’s operations in Asia and Latin America.
“In the U.S. and much of Europe, we face an unrelenting assault on business by government,” Greenberg said in an annual letter to shareholders posted today on the Zurich-based company’s website. “Rather than creating an environment of certainty where business thrives, government is discouraging risk-taking and investment.”
Greenberg, 57, joins JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM:US) CEO Jamie Dimon in criticizing regulators’ actions since 2008 when governments in the U.S. and Europe used taxpayer funds to prop up businesses as credit markets froze. Ace has expanded life insurance operations through acquisitions (ACE:US) in Hong Kong, Korea and Malaysia and increased policy sales in its largest business, commercial and specialty property-casualty insurance, through units in Asia and Latin America.
“The political and government leadership of the major developing nations of the world is focused on wealth creation and what it takes to build a superior capability to win,” he said in the letter. “In the medium-to-longer term, the global economy is in the process of rebalancing, with the center of gravity shifting to Asia, led by China and, to a lesser degree, India, as well as Latin America.”
Ace slipped 1.2 percent (ACE:US) to $72.30 at 1:38 p.m. in New York. The insurer climbed 13 percent last year, beating the 9.6 percent decline in the 22-company Standard & Poor’s 500 Insurance Index.
Dimon railed against “contrived” and confusing financial rules that he said may thwart lending, in a letter to New York- based JPMorgan’s shareholders last week. U.S. and international officials “made the recovery worse than it otherwise would have been,” constrained bank leverage “at precisely the wrong time” and adopted bad and uncoordinated policy, he wrote.
Greenberg centered his critique of European regulators on Solvency II, a set of rules designed to align insurers’ capital reserves with the risks they take, calling the regime “overly bureaucratic, process-oriented, costly, and, by the way, untested.”
The U.S. system, under which insurers are regulated primarily at the state level, has protected policyholders while ensuring that companies “have a reasonable level of freedom to succeed or fail,” he said. Greenberg, the son of former American International Group Inc. (AIG:US) CEO Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, called on the Federal Insurance Office, created as a result of the Dodd-Frank Act, to propose an alternative to the European regulation.
In 2010, Ace agreed to pay $425 million for New York Life Insurance Co.’s Hong Kong and South Korean life units and about $200 million for Malaysia-based Jerneh Insurance Bhd.
Policy sales at Ace’s commercial and specialty property- casualty business increased 13 percent last year to $9 billion, driven by increases in Asia and Latin America. Premiums in the U.S. and Europe declined as the insurer faced competition and weak economies decreased demand for coverage, Greenberg said. Ace generates about half its policy sales in the U.S.
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